Reading Up

* American public school students have something to be proud of: They are better readers than kids in most other countries.

But they shouldn't be bragging yet. American kids still have some catching up to do.

Children are better readers in eight countries: Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, Bulgaria, Latvia, Canada, Lithuania and Hungary.

These are among the findings of a new worldwide study published by the U.S. government. It's based on a survey of the reading habits of fourth-graders in 35 countries.

Girls did better than boys -- everywhere.

Poor kids and minority kids tended to lag behind everywhere, too.

But here's the real rub. Most American fourth-graders get a whole lot of reading instruction in school (at least six hours a week).

But when they walk out the school door, they seem to lose interest compared with students in other countries. About a third of the American kids said they never or almost never read "for fun" outside of school. Internationally, the total of kids in this category was about one-fifth.

Not surprisingly, the American children who read for fun were better readers than those who didn't.

To read the study yourself go to the Web site of the National Center for Education Statistics at http://nces.ed.gov

Be prepared though. It's not what you call "fun" reading.

Phone Fine

* Next time you visit New York, be sure to keep your cell phone off in the theater.

It could cost you $50 if it rings.

The City Council passed the "no ring" law over the objection of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said it couldn't be enforced.

It bans the use of mobile phones in any "indoor theater, library, museum, gallery, concert hall" or in any building where performances are taking place.

It was the idea of theater owners. They got tired of taking complaints from the audience about other people's phones.

-- From staff and wire reports

Turn off your cell phones in New York.