Louisville placed 42nd and Lexington 24th in a recent survey of America's 75 most literate cities based on six key indicators: newspaper circulation; number of bookstores; periodicals; educational attainment; and Internet resources.

Washington, DC topped the list.

Meanwhile, Kentucky's history of low educational attainment makes the state a perennial butt of jokes.

There's a bill in the legislature that, if passed, will raise Kentucky's dropout age from 16 to 18 by 2017. I like it -- because all children don't mature at the same time. For many young people, an extra year or two of mandatory schooling will allow for a maturing process that, combined with the right mix, of teachers and instruction can turn losers into stars.

Interestingly, wealthier cities are no more likely to rank high in literacy than poor ones.

"If cities are truly committed to literacy they can find a way past poverty and other socio-cultural challenges to create and sustain rich resources for reading," said the president of Central Connecticut State University, which conducted the literacy survey.

In my experience, the genius of free public schools and free public libraries is that, done right, everyone has at least a shot at becoming literate. Unfortunately, some are fully prepared to renege on such public commitments; They're too expensive, they say.

But I am reminded of a button I used to wear that said: "If you think education is too expensive, try ignorance."

I'm Betty Baye...and that's my point of view.