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As part of its "national civics lesson'' on the nation's basic charter, the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution has initiated a nationwide public-service advertising campaign to help teach Americans about the document.

The six television and two newspaper advertisements, developed in conjunction with the Advertising Council, will carry the message, "The Constitution: The Words We Live By,'' and will feature such topics as censorship, freedom of religion, and the 26th Amendment, which granted the vote to 18-year-olds.

As part of the campaign, the commission has prepared educational materials on the history and meaning of the Constitution, which are available from The Constitution, Washington, D.C. 20503.

The Gannett Foundation has awarded $1.25 million in grants to agencies in 12 states and Puerto Rico to improve efforts to make literacy services more widely available.

The awards, announced late last month, are part of a two-year, $2.25-million program called the Literacy Challenge, which is the largest nongovernmental program aimed at coordinating literacy efforts in the states, according to Brian Buchanan, a spokesman for the foundation.

This year's recipients were chosen from among 75 applicants in 48 states and the District of Columbia, Mr. Buchanan said. The foundation awarded more than the $1 million originally proposed because "we received more excellent proposals than we expected,'' he added.

Recipients included state departments of education, universities, and nonprofit organizations in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington State.

Vol. 06, Issue 24

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