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Casting Aside Shame And Stigma, Adults Tackle Struggles With Literacy

Our series "Take A Number" looks at problems around the world — and the people trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

At the tiny public library in Winterport, Maine, 43-year-old Robert Hartmann bends over The Little Engine That Could and slowly sounds out the first line.

"Ch-chug, right?" he asks his volunteer tutor, Sandy DeLuck. "Yup," she encourages him. He presses on: "Puh-puff ... puff ... puff. Ding ... ding-dong?"

Hartmann is burly, with five facial piercings, his arms inked with tattoos. This is his second session with DeLuck. He reads at about a first-grade level.

He is one of the 35 million U.S. adults whose reading skills are below a fourth-grade level.

Thirty-five million — or 1 in 6 U.S. adults.

[Continue Reading on NPR.org]

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