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New Bill Focuses on Adult Illiteracy

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Washington--To address the problem of illiterate parents who are inadvertently "passing on" illiteracy to their children, Senator John Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, and Representative William Goodling, Democrat of Pennsylvania, have introduced legislation aimed at teaching illiterate parents of disadvantaged children to read.

The legislation, dubbed the "Even Start Act"--HR 2535 in the House and S 1723 in the Senate--is "based on the belief that illiteracy, like many of our society's worst problems, begins in the home," Senator Chafee told the House elementary, secondary, and vocational education subcommittee last week.

Senator Chafee said that there are currently about 23 million illiterate adults in America, who receive about $6 billion each year in unemployment compensation and child-welfare aid.

Provisions of Bills

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would fund one-year programs, to be implemented by eligible agencies already operating adult-basic-education programs. To participate, adults would have to have young children eligible for Chapter 1 compensatory-education programs.

The bills differ on specifics, however. The House version would provide for $3 million in funding, to be taken from Chapter 1 and adult-basic-education funds. The Senate bill would provide $5 million under4Chapter 2.

Jeanne Paratore, assistant professor of education at Boston University, told the House panel that "the importance of a literate home environment in preparing children for reading and writing has been well established in reading research."

"Yet according to numerous statistics related to illiteracy in the United States," she added, "there exist millions of Americans who cannot read well enough to follow the directions on an aspirin bottle."--at

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