Parents, teachers debate how kids learn to readI have been...


November 20, 1997

Parents, teachers debate how kids learn to read

I have been teaching elementary school for 11 years and am currently teaching in the Baltimore County public schools. By targeting teachers as the culprits who are propagating bad reading instruction you succeeded in deferring public attention away from the larger and deeper issues affecting literacy.

While the authors of the "Reading by 9" series touched on some of the external factors affecting reading instruction, they glaringly omitted the voice of teachers.

As a teacher, I know that public school students are robbed of reading instruction because teachers are required to use class time preparing for and taking standardized tests, contending with large class sizes and attending field trips sponsored by corporations that teach children the language of consumption of their products.

Students will receive quality reading instruction when these external matters are addressed by major policy changes, not by the simplistic solutions proposed in your series of articles.

Tim Jester


I am a teacher at Owings Mills Elementary who has taught reading in Baltimore County for 31 years. Phonics works.

We've bought Robert Slavin's research-based reading program, "Success For All," from Johns Hopkins University. Using this phonics-based reading program, supported by a strong administration and a dedicated staff, our reading scores have risen steadily during the past three years.

I. G. Kaufman


I spent this summer combing the Web, learning many of the things you just published in your in-depth series on reading. Why? My son, a bright and creative 8-year-old who loves to be read to, still could not read.

I listened to teachers, when they told me not to encourage him to sound out words. (No risk there. How could he sound a word out when he had no idea how?) I listened to them, when they told me over and over not to worry, that his struggles were just developmental. I listened to them when they told me he was progressing. But when I got his standardized test scores at the end of second grade and learned that my intelligent and frustrated child whose IQ was in the 90th percentile was reading in the 8th percentile, I stopped listening. I decided to find out for myself and my search began.

When school resumed in August, I still could not convince the school that I knew what my son needed to learn to read. So I fumed and cursed and talked about hiring a lawyer.

In the end, I hired a tutor instead, a cheaper and more effective option for my son. My son is finally learning about sounds and symbols with the tutor's help. But I still worry about all the other kids like him. When will the school teachers and administration learn?

Kathleen Mirin

Bluffton, S.C.

Don't blame Jordan for exploited workers

Suddenly, there is great concern over the plight of workers in Indonesian sweatshops toiling for $10 a week over pairs of $100 Nikes ("Mike's blind side," Nov. 14).

The writer recounts an NBC interview with Michael Jordan, where the basketball great and American superhero was less than candid when confronted with the disparities between his Nike endorsement profits and wages paid to employees of the far-away factories where Nike shoes are made.

Mr. Jordan certainly deserves sharp criticism for contributing to the exploitation of cheap and child labor. But to single out a successful African American while ignoring the corporate CEOs who use impoverished foreign labor to reap profits far larger than Mr. Jordan's is dangerous.

I applaud any discussion of the growing gap between the top and the bottom. But attacking Michael Jordan is treating the symptom, not the disease.

Patrick Smith


Farmers should blame plight on USDA

I couldn't agree more with your Nov. 18 editorial stating that ''Washington should give Maryland farmers a helping hand now." I couldn't disagree more with your editorial's inaccurate assertions that ''state farmers' pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Washington" and that ''relief funds would have been available had Congress reauthorized the emergency feed program."

Any deaf ears in Washington are located in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not Congress. Let me explain.

The Concurrent Resolution of Congress in 1996 provides continued authority for the secretary of agriculture, Dan Glickman, to respond to major disasters by selling or disposing of commodities in the disaster reserve, and specifically provides for cash reimbursement of up to a 30 percent cost-share for emergency feed.

According to both the U.S.D.A. and Maryland Farm Service Agents, an estimated $32 million to $35 million remains in these disaster reserve stocks.

In short, Secretary Glickman could provide the emergency feed Maryland farmers need with the stroke of a pen. Secretary Glickman has not responded to numerous personal inquiries from me to explain why 80 percent crop losses do not meet the definition of a ''major disaster" when the trigger for declaration of a federal disaster is 30 percent.

If Secretary Glickman can't or won't explain it to me, I wonder how he can explain it to farmers in Maryland.

Roscoe G. Bartlett

Washington, D.C.

The writer represents Maryland's Sixth Congressional District.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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