In the early 1990's "outcome based education" and "whole language" were the norm. Educators thought children learned how to read through osmosis: through exposure. Every child had a random moment when it "clicked" and then they could read for the rest of their lives.
There's been a big change in education since then. Now Colorado has the Basic Literacy Act, which says every child should be reading at grade level by third grade or else be put on an Individualized Literacy Plan. On the federal level via No Child Left Behind, students can receive intensive reading instruction paid for with Reading First funds and students in failing schools can get personal tutors with Supplemental Educational Services.
In order to receive Reading First funds, the reading program must contain the five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Teaching reading IS rocket science. Children don't learn how to read by simply being read to, they need to understand how the individual letters sound and feel in their mouth. Developing a rich vocabulary is important to increase comprehension.
Reading First programs must be validated by Scientifically Based Reading Research, a standard which essentially guarantees the reading program will actually work with the targeted students. In addition, there are intervention reading programs for students who don't learn to read through conventional methods.
I'm glad the whole language phase has been put to rest. I've never agreed with experimenting with our children's education. Now policy makers realize the efficacy of a reading program should be established before taxpayer funds are used, which will increase the likelihood our students will actually learn how to read!