“Schools that wait for students to be at least a year behind [in reading] before even testing to see if they need extra help are dooming those kids to long-term failure,” writes Susan Hall in Chicago Parent (April). “A recent overview of reading and literacy initiatives published by the National Center for Learning Disabilities concluded that the reading skills of up to 95 percent of poor readers could be raised to average levels through prevention and early intervention programs that combine instruction in phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency development and reading comprehension strategies. The same report noted that when intervention is delayed until children are nine years old–which is when most children with reading difficulties receive assistance–75 percent will continue to have difficulties learning to read throughout high school.”

No skin, no skeleton. Laurie McGovern Petersen in “Focus” (June/July): “The 20th century quest for a ‘skin-and-bones’ architecture has evolved into a 21st century striving for transparent skin and barely visible bones. The two major developments that allow architects to minimize the structure and maximize the amount of glass are the point-supported light system and the cable net glass facade”–a wall system that will make its American debut in Chicago, at One North Wacker. “Developed by the John Buck Company and designed by Lohan Associates, the office tower will have a large lobby of cable net glass walls….Slated for completion by the fall of next year, the lobby’s walls will provide a dramatic experience of a totally clear enclosure.”

Start your office pool now–how long will he last? Rich Miller in “Capitol Fax” (June 7) on the death-for-dollars license scandal swirling around Governor Ryan: “If the federal regs were so bad and Florida was such a problem, then why did Ryan hire an incompetent political hack to run his Inspector General’s office, harass at least two whistle-blowers, shut down the IG’s office, essentially hound one of his best and most committed anti-corruption investigators into leaving the state, and then bring in a praetorian lawyer to pronounce a clean bill of health during the 1998 campaign?”

The two Americas. Writing in In These Times (June 26), Joel Bleifuss quotes Juan Gonzalez’s new book, Harvest of Empire: “Latin America became a land of social inclusion and political exclusion. English America welcomed all political and religious views but remained deeply intolerant in its social and racial attitudes.”

“CVLS [Chicago Volunteer Legal Services] gave me a taste of what being a public interest lawyer is all about,” writes Michele Birkmeier Walton of her 1999 summer job in “PILI Focus” (Spring), newsletter of the DePaul-based Public Interest Law Initiative. “On my first day, when my meeting with my supervisor did not include a welcoming lunch, I knew my law firm summer associate days were over. I received five cases and was told to go to work. I interviewed three clients that day, and had a court date on Wednesday.”

Laboring backward? When John Sweeney took over the AFL-CIO in 1996 and began what many journalists call labor’s “resurgence,” unions represented 14.9 percent of all workers and 10.4 percent of private-sector workers, according to Mickey Kaus in Slate (June 5). Today the figures are 13.9 and 9.4.

But you don’t understand, John–he’s more important than we are! Law professor John Lott, formerly of the University of Chicago and now at Yale, writes in the Los Angeles Times (June 1): “Unfortunately, [Rosie] O’Donnell joins a long list of people who demand that others disarm even while they keep their own armed bodyguards. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, for example, surrounds himself with armed guards even when he visits relatively low-crime areas, but he opposes issuing handgun licenses for people to keep a gun at home in even the most dangerous parts of the city. (Chicago has the highest murder rate of any large city in the U.S.)”