Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Residentís reading system gets tested

Narda Pitkethlyís ĎNardaganií being used in Idaho prison

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident Narda Pitkethly has devised a remedial reading program that is being tested in a womenís prison in Boise. Photo by Willy Cook

Learning to read and speak English can be a challenging prospect, especially for those learning it as a second language.

Ketchum resident Narda Pitkethly has devised a method for taking the guesswork out of pronouncing vowels in English, a process she hopes will streamline the learning process.

Known as Nardagani, the reading system attaches new symbols to letters that have more than one sound in the English language, such as the vowels and the letters H, T, Y and G. The symbols give specific direction on how to pronounce the letters at any given time.

Nardagani is an alternate form of phonetics and takes about a half-hour to comprehend. It utilizes pictures and symbols to eliminate ambiguities in the English language that have evolved over time.

"Nardagani basically decodes the English written language," Pitkethly said. "It tells you straight up what each letter does. The vowels are the most complicated. The O makes six sounds."

Pitkethly, who spent eight years developing Nardagani, began testing the system last weekend at the South Boise Women's Correctional Center. She decided to approach prison officials after school districts in Idaho asked her to provide test results from the system, before considering giving it a go in public schools.


"The only place that I could find to test this system was in a prison," Pitkethly said. So she contacted the head of the Department of Corrections for Idaho and was given an opportunity to demonstrate the system to two teachers working in Idaho prisons.

Pitkethly was soon given a green light to test Nardagani alongside the Correction Department's existing program, which measures reading levels every 30 to 60 days, from first to eleventh grade. She traveled to the women's prison in Boise late last month with friends and fellow teachers Jonathan Cohen, Fred Burmester and Jen Rush to try Nardagani out.

They taught 21 women for five hours to further their educations, perhaps enough to show improvement and hopefully go home on parole.

"It was an amazing experience," said Pitkethly. "It far exceeded our expectations."

The 21 inmates will in turn instruct another 90 inmates in the reading program. Pitkethly said the initial visit went well and that she will return to the prison in late May.

"I believe test scores will show all the women's reading levels greatly improved," Pitkethly said.

Tony Evans:

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