Just when we thought the state was going to Hades in a hand basket, some uplifting news filters through.

Two books and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Two books and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Arizona kids not only still know how to read, but they actually do it. Big time.

Elementary students throughout the state read more than 1 million books in 85 days as part of the 2010 Bookmans’ Reading Challenge, according to a news release from our beloved bookstore.

Tucson students were at the top of the heap.

Top honors – and $15,000 – went to Academy Adventures Primary School, 3902 N. Flowing Wells Road. Kids at this charter school, which was also the smallest school participating, averaged 329 books per student during the contest. Their grand total was 27,607 books.

Second and third place also went to Tucson schools: Senita Valley Elementary, 10750 E. Bilby Road, and Hudlow Elementary, 502 N. Caribe Ave. These two each receive a $1,000 Bookmans’ gift certificate for their efforts.

The contest included 75 elementary schools throughout the state and ended March 31. The grand prize award ceremony is slated for 2 p.m. on April 20 at Academy Adventures.

Good job, kids – and maybe you can pass along your reading skills to some adults.

Evidence of people’s lack of reading skills – or at least the refusal to use these skills – crop up daily. Some motorists are especially adverse at reading things like those big red signs with “Stop” on them. Shoppers often seem confused when confronted with “10 items or less” or “Line Starts Here.”

Joy of reading/Ryn Gargulinski

Joy of reading/Ryn Gargulinski

And those solicitors are still ringing my bell despite my menagerie of front door signs that proclaim, “No Soliciting,” “Trespassers will be shot,” and the very easy to understand “Go Away.”

Kids, please, teach these folks a thing or two. In fact, teach the nation a thing or two.

Stats from the Education Portal website tell us 50 percent of American adults can’t read above an eighth-grade level, 20 percent read below a fifth-grade level and about half “read so poorly they cannot find a single piece of information when reading a short publication.”

Top that off with the 44 million adults that can’t even read a simple story to their kids and we’ve got ourselves a problem.

But it may be OK, since the average American does watch more than four hours of TV each day, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., which translates to about 28 hours each week.

That’s more hours than many part-time jobs.

If people spent that much time reading, the nation would be smarter, keener and probably have much more interesting conversations that stretched beyond obvious weather conditions.

The joy of reading is best instilled at an early age. Sure, it can be quashed later on by high school or college courses requiring things like “Moby Dick,” but it doesn’t have to be lost.

And we are glad to hear it’s still alive and well with a big chunk of Arizona elementary students and, even better, in Tucson.

Even if the state still goes to Hades in a hand basket, at least the new generation will be able to read the signs along the way.

[tnipoll]

Mummy books by local author James M. Deem make for good reading/Ryn Gargulinski

Mummy books by local author James M. Deem make for good reading/Ryn Gargulinski

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What do you think?

Have you seen the ill effects of illiteracy in your daily life?

When was the last time you sat down and read a book?

If you have kids, do you read to them?

Did your parents read to you?

What’s your take on Kindle or iPad vs. the good old-fashioned print book?

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