'60 Minutes' Correspondent Opens Up About Childhood Illiteracy

November 8th, 2010

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Posted: Nov 07, 2010 10:18 PM EST

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – A CBS News Correspondent opened up to NewsChannel 5 about what he calls his shameful secret.

Byron Pitts, correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes” has interviewed the past 6 presidents, dodged bullets in Afghanistan, and brought home dozens of journalism awards in his 30 years of reporting.

But on Sunday, he was in Murfreesboro for a conference about literacy and reading. Pitts was standing as an unlikely poster child of illiteracy.

“Nothing about where I come from suggests I should be doing what I am doing right now,” said Pitts.

For the first 12 years of his life, Pitts admitted he couldn’t read.

“It was the most difficult part of my life, the shame you experience when you can’t read. Things like ‘dummy’, ‘moron’ and ‘stupid’ followed me around in school,” Pitts told NewsChannel 5.

Pitts struggle is hardly a unique one. It is estimated that 30 million people over the age of 16 can’t read a basic newspaper article, or read a children’s story to their kids, or even fill out an employment application.

The problem can be embarrassing and Pitts said he knows people go to great lengths to hide it.

“The teacher would say ‘who wants to read what?’. I would read the part I had memorized and fake it,” according to Pitts.

Only through the help family, faith and supportive teachers was he able to overcome his learning disability and conquer a career in journalism.

Pitts is now is on a mission: to let educators here in Tennessee know their dedication makes a difference and can change a life.

“I am living my dreams now as a 60 Minutes correspondent. (It) only became possible because when I was struggling academically and I couldn’t read there were good people, my mother and teachers, that said ‘son despite where you are now we can help you live your dreams,'” Pitts said.

Pitts has written a book about his struggle with illiteracy called “Stepping Out on Nothing.” It is available in bookstores now.