About 23 million U.S. adults are illiterate. And a disproportionate number of them are in inner-city neighborhoods. A foundation in New York City's Harlem, called the Street Literacy Clinic, wants to bring them into the world of reading. Funded by former Manhattan Borough President Percy E. Sutton, the storefront clinic uses touch-screen computers running software that mixes written English with photos and video footage of neighborhood sights.
The idea is to "make the connection between learning and reality," says Michael Lawrence, the course developer and clinic manager. While viewing street scenes of buses, police cars, food stores, and churches, the students touch the words on the monitor and listen to the pronunciation. Through the city's Corrections Dept., the clinic will soon provide its 50-hour multimedia course to inmates at Riker's Island. By next year, the clinic plans to begin selling its software.