Students failing because they aren’t trained to read well |

Students failing because they aren’t trained to read well

Attendees at a forum on reading Wednesday blamed the methods used to teach reading in Nevada and the nation for what they say are growing numbers of students who fail.

The forum was sponsored by Parents for Quality Education and held at the Nevada Room at the governor’s mansion.

It was organized by Ann Bednarski, who lost a bid for the Carson School District Board of Trustees last year and featured speeches including from former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle of Reno. About 40 – most of whom identified themselves as grandparents of school aged children – attended the open forum. Only three or four teachers attended.

Angle and Sharon Kientz, former national teacher of the year, charged that elementary students aren’t learning to read as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act because they are being taught by new versions of the old “Dick and Jane” readers instead of being taught to sound out words using a phonetic understanding of the alphabet.

Kientz charged that literacy has gone down since 1930 in the U.S. And she said she has seen estimates that 80 percent of children in special education are there because they can’t read, not because of mental or psychological issues. She said when children don’t learn to read, too often it is blamed on a learning disability.

She said 75 percent of prison inmates and 85 percent of juvenile delinquents can’t read. Angle added that the Justice Department has reported reading failure as a major cause of anti-social behavior.

Angle said her repeated attempts to change the system in Nevada were defeated in the Nevada Legislature. She said too many people make it through high school without actually being fluent readers.

Despite the federal act, she said, “Children are being left behind because they can’t read.”

They were followed by Christopher Wright of the U.S. Department of Education, who said No Child Left Behind supports research based reading education programs that will achieve the goal of having every child learn to read in the first grade. He said groups like Parents for Quality Education are “a wonderful example” of parents, teachers and the community working together to improve education.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.