Normally, television is a big part of the lives of some Eucalyptus Elementary School students.

"I watch TV when I do my homework," said second-grader Alicia.

"My family watches TV every night when they eat dinner," said second-grader Christian.

But not this month: Eucalyptus Elementary School students turned off the television the week of March 2, as part of the March to a Million month of reading by the students. The students' reading is tracked by a huge thermometer in the school's atrium.

They have a special incentive to read: If they together put in a million minutes of reading, Eucalyptus Principal Craig Gunter will perform the Napoleon Dynamite dance for the students at an assembly in April. (So far, though, they've only put in 50,000 minutes as of Friday morning, so they'll need to pick up the pace.)

Some Eucalyptus families have been going without television themselves to support their students, but other students have been skipping watching alone.

"My mom has been watching TV, but she chased me out," said fifth-grader Stephanie.

"I've been in my room without watching TV," said fifth-grader Jazmine.

"If my aunt turns on the TV, I leave the room," said second-grader Guadalupe.

As for Christian, when his family watches TV at dinner time, he sticks to his guns: "My dad was watching soccer and I just sat on the stairs and ate dinner."

Contrary to popular belief, some Eucalyptus students already go without television voluntarily, at least once in a while.

"Sometimes I go without TV for two days," said third-grader Tyler.

But it's not like the kids haven't missed television at all.

"I missed my Star Wars," said Tyler, although he's substituted reading about the Clone Wars instead, carrying around a copy of "Clone Wars: Operation: Huttlet" with him.

Jazmine missed seeing the Lakers beat the Mephis Grizzlies 99-89 on Tuesday night and her classmate Joselyn gave up five nights of her favorite telenovela for reading.

"iCarly, Spongebob Squarepants and Max & Ruby," second-grader Isabel rattled off without hesitation.

The goal, of course, is that even after the televisions come back on, and Gunter does the Napoleon Dynamite dance (or doesn't), is that Eucalyptus students will read more than they did previously.

Some students said they'd definitely keep on reading, but others weren't so sure.

"I'll keep reading," said Christian.

"Next week, I don't know," Tyler said.

And even the adults associated with the Eucalyptus have benefited from the weeklong vacation from television. Gunter had put in eight hours of reading for pleasure by Friday morning, had cooked dinner for his family, which then had sit-down dinners together, with no television set distracting them.

"My kids said 'yeah, dad, it was nice to not see you watch so much TV,'" Gunter said. "If you add up all the minutes, how much of your life are you watching TV?"

Eucalyptus isn't alone in this: Mission Crest Elementary School principal Michelle Murphy will have to kiss a pig in April if her students put in a million minutes of reading. And elementary schools around the district -- including Topaz Elementary, Cottonwood Elementary and Hollyvale Elementary -- had guest readers come in for Read Across America Day, celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday with stories read out loud.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at