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A Noble Cauzse

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Last month, school officials in Pasco County, Fla., began a public-relations campaign to heighten awareness of their program to teach illiterate adults to read.

The effort succeeded beyond all expectations, but for all the wrong reasons.

"By the year 2000 ... let's overcome literacy," urged the letter sent to business leaders in the northern Tampa suburb. The typographical error was repeated three times in the two-paragraph announcement.

Reid Wentz, the head of the

district office that mailed the letter, said news of the blunder was first carried in a story in the Tampa Tribune. Then came a call from the St. Petersburg Times. And from the Associated Press. And from USA Today. And from the Cable News Network. And from Paul Harvey, the nationally syndicated radio commentator.

"I don't know whether the error was made by the person who wrote the letter or by the typist," said Mr. Wentz, director of the school system's office of vocational, adult, and community

education, which is responsible for the reading-assistance program. "I read it before it was sent out. I knew what it was supposed to say, and I obviously read in what was intended."

Emphasizing the positive, Mr. Wentz noted that the letter did indeed draw attention to the program, which thus far has matched 300 volunteer tutors with an equal number of adults seeking help. "But this certainly isn't the way I'd do it if I had the chance to do it again," he said.--tm

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