The Central Utah Reading Council's Outstanding Reading Teacher of 1992 says she likes to practice what she preaches.

"It helps that I do like to read," said Lucille Carter, a second-grade teacher at Springville's Art City Elementary School. "So it's easy for me to get my students to enjoy books and use them to enhance their education."Carter received the teaching award Tuesday night at a banquet for the Central Utah Reading Council. And though she said she was both surprised and honored by the recognition, Carter credits her students for much of her success, as well as theirs.

"By the time they've gotten to second grade, they've mastered some of the essentials, and they begin putting their reading skills together, like into context," she said. "It's very exciting."

To add to that excitement, Carter sets aside considerable class time for both group and individual reading exercises. She expects, but doesn't require, her students to read at home or out of class for at least 20 minutes per day, to help them read in a more comfortable environment.

And setting the proper environment is critical, according to Carter. For example, while she reads aloud to the class the students lie around her on floor space set aside just for the activity.

"It's important for them to be comfortable, and maybe realize that reading isn't always necessarily class work," Carter said. "It's also something for them to enjoy."

Throughout Carter's classroom are books, hundreds of them, not all of them class texts, instructional manuals or similar material. Instead, extremely large reading books and story books, many of which Carter paid for out of her own pocket, are filed in various places. Carter's students have even brought in some of their own favorites to share with their classmates. In some respects, her classroom looks more like a library than the school's library does.

"You can tell I love my books," she said. "I'm constantly buying new ones, I've invested a lot of time and money in them. I hope my students get as much out of them as I do, and I hope we can all get something out of their favorite books too."

That's important to Carter. She said that reading at an early age is critical to eliminating illiteracy.

"They've got to be able to master the language arts and be able to communicate," Carter said. "It's very important for their own survival and their own knowledge."

Carter, who has worked at Art City Elementary for the past 14 years, and worked for nine years before that at Springville's Brookside Elementary, said she is touched but a little surprised by the honor. Principal Chris Sorenson said it is a well-deserved award.

"It's a neat honor and she really deserves it," Sorenson said. "Not only is she dedicated to teaching reading in all aspects, she's also a stabilizing influence for this school."

He said Carter is well-liked by both students and staff, and is an extremely hard worker.