The fine print

September 26, 2002

AS BALTIMORE CELEBRATES all things literary this week with the annual book festival on Mount Vernon Place, it's worth noting who won't be there.

While book-lovers savor a who's who of famous names, area literacy advocates have planned a read-a-thon to raise money for training programs to reach those who cannot read well enough to appreciate the Baltimore Book Festival's eclectic charms.

According to the nonprofit advocacy group Baltimore Reads, an estimated 38 percent of city adults read at a sixth-grade level or below -- more than 200,000 residents.

That's not surprising, when you consider that 31 percent of the city's adult population is made up of dropouts.

Their presence is felt in every aspect of city life, beginning with their limited employability and stymied opportunities for further education. Many are unprepared to even attempt getting a GED; many end up in prison.

Equally frustrated are their dreams for the next generation. While the city and state work to rebuild reading instruction in the schools, a host of parents are not able to help their children do the homework and master the skills.

Supporting reforms in the schools is not enough. Programs that support families also are needed to ensure a return on the state and city's investment in the curricula and teacher training addressing the needs of the children.

Anyone who is serious about attracting new business, residents and tourists to Baltimore must tarry for a while in the tattered pages of this old story and lend support to the literacy programs that can help write new chapters in city life.

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