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It may come as a surprise to many, but illiteracy is a big problem on the shoreline.
"We have 17,000 functionally illiterate people just in the nine towns on the shore," said Elizabeth Steffen, who works with the Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore.
Steffen is also in charge of this year's seventh annual April Fools 5K Run, 3K Walk, and Backward Mile on Saturday, April 5 at 8:30 a.m. at Essex Town Hall.
The event raises funds to find, train, and hire tutors for the illiterate. The entry fee is $23 per racer.
"Last year we had over 50 racers...So far, this year, registration has been a little slow. But I attribute that to the cold weather," she said. "I'm hoping the number picks up as we get closer to the event."
One of the annual highlights is the Backward Mile, which draws lots of entries and always produces a few laughs.
People can still register for the races by calling 860-399-0280, "and we'll still allow people to register the morning of the race, from 7:30 in the morning on," said Steffen.
She said those who want to register the day of the races can do so by coming directly to Essex Town Hall.
"Just get there early," she warned.
"It's really a wonderful, fun event," said Steffen, who added there will be plenty of coffee, tea, bagels, fruits, and other goodies for participants to much on.
All the food is donated by area businesses and families.
More information about the event is available at the Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore website, www.vsliteracy.org.