Outside the ever-litigious United States, the field of education is relatively free from legal challenges to its daily routines. In recent years, however, there has been a steady increase in the number of school-related lawsuits. While many have dealt with situations of cruelty and child abuse, there have also been a few cases relating to poor teaching. One such case was successfully argued in the Australian city of Melbourne in August with potentially enormous ramifications for schools throughout the world. Yvonne Meyer was awarded an undisclosed sum for the adjudged failure of Brighton Grammar School to rectify her son's literacy problems as promised. Young Jake Meyer had no cognitive handicaps whatsoever. His problem was that he had managed to survive in reading until the end of the fifth grade by using guesswork and memorisation, instead of decoding words sound-by-sound. Guesswork and memorisation? This is precisely how the vast majority of Hong Kong's children have been taught to read English. To his credit, Jake, 13, has since made a relatively successful transition to secondary school, thanks to months of intensive tutoring using the phonics method of explicit decoding. Even so, it will take years of recreational and academic reading for Jake's vocabulary to catch up to the level of his peers - if it ever does. Jake's mother took legal action against the elite private school as a last resort in a long saga of failed promises. She has urged other parents to speak up whenever they sense that 'all is not well' in their children's education. Fortunately for Jake, his mother had become particularly well informed about the teaching of reading as a parent member of an Australian federal government inquiry into literacy education. She was drawn to the committee's work after her son had been diagnosed with 'a huge range of reading difficulties' in his first few years at school. To then discover that her own child was a victim of ill-informed reading instruction was an enormous shock. When reading instruction is based on 'look and say', far too many children never manage to discover the sheer magic of decoding and are condemned to a life of guesswork. Hong Kong is a city of Jakes - many standing in front of classrooms full of other Jakes. We are a population of reluctant readers of English who have been taught to read by guesswork and memory, thoroughly inculcated by countless 'seen-dictation' tests which override the necessary skills of decoding. It will be interesting to see if we have any Yvonne Meyers willing to stand up for the rights of their children to be properly instructed in alphabetic literacy and to fight against the continued use of memorised English dictation. Pauline Bunce has recently completed a doctoral research study of Hong Kong students' alphabetic literacy skills.