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US literacy programs alive and well Contrary to reports in your recent article "A governor fits in time for phonics" (June 2), I am proud to report that the US Department of Education's America Reads Challenge and Reading Excellence Program are alive and flourishing.

The America Reads Challenge, which has been operating since 1997, is an unprecedented national initiative that challenges every American to help our children to learn to read. In its first year alone, 22,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities earned financial aid as America Reads tutors, and many more students have volunteered. Even more participated in the 1998-99 school year.

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America Reads tutors have served more than 2.2 million children through AmeriCorps, VISTA, Foster Grandparents and other national service programs. More than 280 organizations from all 50 states, including businesses, have joined the President's Coalition for the America Reads Challenge. The America Reads Challenge also sponsored the first ever National Reading Summit that brought together more than 500 education leaders to bring an end to the "reading wars" and focus on increasing literacy in America based on well-researched and effective methods.

Additionally, the Reading Excellence Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton this past October. With $260 million in funding, this is the most significant new law to target child literacy in three decades. The Reading Excellence Program focuses on professional development, family literacy, and effective tutoring and will begin awarding competitive grants to states this summer.

Governor Taft's effort with OhioReads, as described in your article, is certainly a laudable example of how to help children learn to read. We all need to work together to meet President Clinton's goal of ensuring that all children become good readers by the end of the third grade.

Carol Rasco, Washington Senior adviser to the US secretary of Education, and director of the America Reads Challenge

Taking the US to task Regarding the opinion article "Moscow's tough act likely to backfire" (June 16): It struck me as odd that while the author detected the "audacity" of Russia's entrance into Kosovo, he failed to mention some of the more "audacious" moves made recently by his own country, the United States.

To begin, bombing Yugoslavia in utter disregard of the United Nations was quite audacious. The author notes that Russia's arrival in Kosovo was a move to enhance their "prestige." I find it irresponsible to emphasize this without mentioning the US's explicit move for prestige, or as their own leaders put it, "credibility," in bombing Yugoslavia.

US power-mongering in Yugoslavia, unfortunately, is not an isolated event. Other "audacious" actions by the US include: bombing Afghanistan and the Sudan on pretexts that were flimsy at best; vetoing, amidst overwhelming international support, a treaty that would allow for the creation of an International Criminal Court; vetoing, amidst overwhelming international support, a treaty calling for the deactivation of land mines, including US land mines, in Southeast Asia; and refusing, amidst overwhelming international support, to cease the bombing and remove the sanctions on Iraq.

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If such critics focus their analyses not only on America's "enemies" but America itself, they will find, I believe, much to consider.

Nick Trebat, Washington Research associate Council on Hemispheric Affairs

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