The ReadNet Foundation

By Carter B. Horsley

An incredible and shocking percentage of Americans have severe literacy problems. These problems are suffered not only by some new immigrants and some learning disabled individuals, but also by many adults from many different backgrounds.

National commissions on education periodically highlight this fact, but, tragically, little progress has been made.

Two approaches to the literacy problem have received considerable attention: phonics, which attempts to improve literacy by concentrating on similar sounds, and whole language, which focuses on general context.

A new, different method is being advanced by The ReadNet Foundation in New York (116 East 63rd Street, NY, NY 10021, 212-838-2344 phone, 212-644-0871, fax) that emphasizes minimizing errors to establish a more secure and confident base for the reader. The method has been developed and tested over the past two decades in many schools and home settings. The foundation is not only aimed at helping literacy problems of children, but also of adults and is also involved with second-language education.  

The Institute for Learning Technology at Teachers College of Columbia University works with the ReadNet Foundation in making assessments of how the programs work in schools.  

Last spring, the foundation held the first of a series of meetings at Doubles, the club at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel, bringing together at its first meeting many concerned New Yorkers including former Mayor David Dinkins, Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Diane McKechnie, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Brendan Gill, Ted Kheel, Schuyler Chapin and authors Rona Jaffe and Barbara Taylor Bradford.  The meeting was hosted by Liz Smith, the columnist.

The luncheon featured a brilliant talk by Eli Gottlieb, author of the recently published book, The Boy Who Went Away, as well as eloquent comments by Willie Hubbard, the son of a co-founder of the foundation, Mrs. Robin Hubbard, on his bout with literacy problems: "The printed page looked like a painting to me, a maze, I hated the work, but now I have favorite authors."  

The next ReadNet luncheon in this excellent series featured Michael Thomas, the writer and columnist for The New York Observer, among other speakers, and was held May 29 at Doubles.  Over the last year, the foundation has been refining its instructional materials and evaluating its methods at several sites.

ReadNet now has five master instructors and four apprentice instructors.  

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