Nike Inc., the athletic footwear and apparel company, is providing $5 million to help finance a literacy project developed by the Children's Television Workshop, officials said Thursday.

Children's Television Workshop, a pioneer in educational programming with series such as "Sesame Street," said the project will be a television-based multimedia effort to motivate and help children read with comprehension and write with coherence.CTW President David Britt said about two out of five American adults - 40 percent of the population - are either totally or functionally illiterate and about the same percentage of 9-year-olds in the United States lacks basic reading skills.

Named "Ghostwriter," Britt said the $20 million project "will capture the contemporary beat of MTV, the graphic look of print on screen, elements of the popular culture, and a dramatic format to create the program and the excitement surrounding it."

The centerpiece will be a weekly, year-round dramatic television series targeted for children ages 7 to 10. A mini-magazine also will be distributed free to about 20 million children, while teachers will be provided with materials through a variety of channels.

Cooperative reading and writing activities will be carried out with the U.S. Postal Service, major youth-serving organizations and other organizations.

The NIKE grant is the largest single corporate grant ever made for a children's educational television project. The Public Broadcasting Service will add $2.8 million; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, $1 million; and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, $100,000. CTW has committed some $6 million of its own funds to the project.