A slam dunk shot is quite a thrill,

But education's greater still.Thurl Bailey, Utah Jazz basketball player (who, incidentally, read poetry to prove his point) told youngsters and all Utahns Thursday, via television, that being able to read is "the only thing better than making a jump shot."

The basketball player, joined by KTVX anchorman Phil Reisen and a bespectacled Benjamin Franklin, made a pitch for reading on behalf of Literacy Day.

The day opened a yearlong "Read to Succeed" program, with a variety of events sponsored by the Deseret News, KTVX-Channel 4, KBYU-Channel 11, the Utah Literacy/English as a Second Language Coaltion and Project Literacy U.S.

The kickoff on the State Capitol steps Thursday was a step toward eliminating a problem that contributes to many social ills, Reisen said.

A proclamation by Gov. Norm Bangerter, read by "Franklin," outlined the problem: There are an estimated 200,000 Utahns over 16 who cannot read or write well enough to fill out an employment form, and one in five lacks a high school diploma.

Utahns 5 to 95 years old were urged to join the quest for a higher degree of literacy. A living flame lit by Melanie Harker, University of Utah medical student, symbolized the ongoing challenge of making literacy universal.

Utah school children listened to poetry readings, then released bouquets of pastel balloons bearing the Read to Succeed logo. Among them were students from Horizon School, Murray District; Brockbank Junior High School, Granite District; Lone Peak, Jordan District; and Orem, Alpine District.

The Lone Peak youngsters used their mascot, the eagle, to carry the message a step further: "Reading gives you wings to fly."

The Deseret News will sponsor an ongoing program for families, focusing on use of the newspaper as an educational tool that is continually updated and relevant.