TIFTON -- Tifton readers have reinforced the city's claim as the "Reading Capital of the World" by hitting the 2,000,000 mark in Accelerated Reader points. The tallies were reported this week to Mike Brumby, executive director of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence. The AR point total is now at 2,021,007.

Terri Nalls, the media specialist at Charles Spencer Elementary and one of the coordinators of the AR program county-wide, tallied up figures from the 12 schools involved in the program (11 Tift County public schools and Tiftarea Academy) as they stood on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

"We had such a change over at the beginning of the school year, I didn't know if we would be able to do it by Christmas," said Nalls. "But the kids really did a great job reading. I'm tickled about it."

The AR program assigns point totals for books and comprehension tests are designed for readers to take by computer after a book is finished. The majority of the points were earned by Tift County students although adults have also pitched in, especially during the summer reading program.

"I think it's just evidence of excellent teaching," said Syd Blackmarr, the president of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence. "I think most of the credit goes to the kids. They seem to really love to read and that's a great total for them to see. I think it reinforces what they're doing and hopefully, it will encourage them to continue to be enthusiastic about it."

The count on the current total began nearly seven years ago when the AR program was first introduced locally. It took almost four years for the first million to be earned and three years for the second million. Nalls said she believes the pace has been elevated because more schools and more teachers are in the program.

"It's really a remarkable thing," Brumby said. "We've got so many great teachers that have helped make this possible and the kids just keep reading. They like it. It's something we've looked forward to and I'm excited for the kids."

With the opening of the new Annie Belle Clark school and with a few different principals at different schools this year, Nalls said she was unsure how those changes would affect the progress of the AR count.

"The teachers are the key," she said. "The media specialists and the principals can do some of it, but the teachers really make it happen. They make it fun for the students and this shows what kind of work they're doing."

For more information on the books and their assigned totals and about the Reading Capital effort as a whole, visit www.readingcapital.com.

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