This is a reading comprehension exercise for children. It is written by Susan Fineman, a reading specialist in the New Haven, Conn., school district.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- For more than 70 years, ever since he was a lad of 18, Olafur Trygtgvason has been the man who keeps the time in Reykjavik.

Every Tuesday, the 89-year-old retired watchmaker enters the modest Domkirkja, considered Iceland's national church. Then he climbs an appropriately spiraling staircase, unlocks a heavy wooden door -- whose thickness does little to mask the steady "tick, tick, tick" behind it -- and winds the church's clock.

"It's just the same as a watch," Trygtgvason explains, throwing open the cabinet that contains the oversized gears. "But bigger."

The four-sided clock tower of the Domkirkja, next to Iceland's Parliament, is one of the capital's most familiar landmarks.

Although Trygtgvason did not personally wind the clock every week in the early years, the watchmaking company where he was employed oversaw the job. He took the task solely upon himself starting in 1970.

Until a decade ago, he used a wooden and metal contraption to do the winding by hand, a process that required 105 laborious rotations. Now, a motorized device does most of the work.

Iceland's decision to remain on Greenwich Mean Time year-round also changed his life. No longer does he have to make late-night trips to the church twice each year to set the clockworks forward or back one hour.

"The taxi drivers would get confused and give me crazy looks when I said I wanted to go to church at midnight," he recalls.

Although the clock is a dominant feature of the country's capital, Trygtgvason professes to see nothing special in the weekly service he performs for his 110,000 fellow residents.

"It's just work," he said. "It's just like when I'm working at home with my watches."

How long will he do it?

"It depends on the knees," he said, adding ruefully, "and they're going."

Then Trygtgvason, dressed dapperly in a coat and tie, insists he must be off. He has a dentist's appointment, you see. And it wouldn't do to be late.

Vocabulary Quiz

1. gears a. toothed wheels that fit together

2. mask b. mixed up

3. spiraling c. very stylishly; neatly

4. contraption d. difficult

5. landmarks e. winding around a fixed center

6. confused f. buildings that identify places

7. cabinet g. closet with places for storing objects

8. dapperly h. block; hide

9. professes i. claims; declares

10. laborious j. gadget

Answer key: 1. a, 2. h, 3. e, 4. j, 5. f, 6. b., 7. g, 8. c, 9. i, 10. d