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Project Set To Boost Literacy Among Children

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WASHINGTON--The organizers of Project Literacy U.S., or PLUS--a media-sponsored campaign against adult illiteracy--last week announced a new project to promote literacy among young people.

To be called "Youth/PLUS,'' the new effort is aimed at increasing the basic-skills levels of school-age children, organizers said at a press conference here. In addition, they said, the project will address teen-age pregnancy, drug abuse, unemployment, and other youth problems.

Like PLUS, Youth/PLUS will combine community outreach with television and radio public-service announcements, according to James E. Duffy, president of communications for Capital Cities/ABC Inc., one of the main sponsors of the program.

The goal, he said, is to encourage "increased mentoring of young people, increased community and parental involvement in schools, a greater effort toward early-childhood development, and more reading and writing among children.''

First launched in December 1985 as a cooperative effort by Capital Cities and the Public Broadcasting Service, PLUS has grown to include more than 125 national organizations, as well as 366 local task forces made up of community groups that recruit volunteer tutors.

The budget for the media program, including its new youth initiative, is estimated to be about $1.4 million, according to Jack Harr, a spokesman for Capital Cities.

An Education Department survey has shown an increase of nearly 500,000 enrollees in adult basic-education courses in the two years since PLUS began, said Lloyd Kaiser, president of radio station WQED in Pittsburgh, one of the sponsors. State appropriations for literacy programs have doubled in that time, he added, and there have been substantial increases in the number of volunteer tutors.

Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, a supporter of PLUS who was on hand at last week's announcement, strongly endorsed the plans to extend the campaign to younger audiences.

"We are attempting to reverse a very dangerous trend,'' Mr. Kean said. "We now live in a society where the poor and downtrodden are more likely to be children.''

On May 3, Youth/PLUS will launch a campaign to encourage children to read during the summer.

Called "The Summer of the Readasaurus,'' the campaign will begin with live coverage of the hatching of a mysterious "Readasaurus'' egg at the National Zoological Park here. Inside the egg will be a "dinosaur,'' which will learn how to read and then travel the country encouraging children to do the same.--LJ

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