If the generally propounded figures are to believed, about 20% of all adults are functionally illiterate--which means they are unable to read and write beyond an eighth-grade level.

Obviously, being so ill-equipped to function in an information age packed full of fine and not so fine print is a personal handicap that can cause great societal harm as well.

Yet there are adults like Diane Swenson, a painter for the Santa Ana School District and mother of two, who essentially never learned to read and write at all. How Swenson and six other lost souls of literacy were rescued by adult education and literacy tutoring programs is warmly told in “When Grown-ups Can’t Read,” the final program of KCET’s locally-produced “California Stories,” which ends its premier season tonight at 7:30 on Channel 28.

Written, produced and reported by Peter Graumann, the documentary touches on illiteracy’s deleterious effects on society but focuses on individual struggles and happy results.


School custodian Robert Mendez had a high school diploma but was virtually illiterate until taking two years of tutoring recently at the Glendale YMCA. Now he is completely thrilled to be able to write down what he feels on a piece of paper and read it back to himself. He’s also become an avid advocate of literacy who encourages other adults to seek help.

Unfortunately, Graumann says on the program, despite the stepped up efforts of government and private literacy programs, 95% of those who need help aren’t getting it.

“When Grown-Ups Can’t Read” will be repeated Sunday at 11 p.m. on the station.

Meanwhile, Father’s Day on Sunday is the inspiration for two programs that evening. “Time Out for Dad” at 8 p.m. on NBC finds former football star Dick Butkus type cast as a former football player who in this production tackles the role of househusband. Harriet Nelson plays his mother-in-law.


ABC asks Joan Lunden and Alan Thicke to host “Our Kids and the Best of Everything,” a program about the joys and woes of parenting at 8 p.m.