When Johnny's Whole Family Can't Read

About 23 million Americans can't read this sentence.

That might surprise many people who see illiteracy as a malady of a bygone era, like smallpox. Or as the stuff of jokes, like Vice-President Quayle's inability to spell "potato" a few weeks ago. But the deficiency is no laughing matter for those who lack English and math skills, and, increasingly, for their employers. Says Gail Spangenberg, vice-president of the Business Council for Effective Literacy, a nonprofit group: "This is not a new problem, but a problem with a new urgency."

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