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Maine’s first lady reads to Houlton Elementary children

HOULTON, Maine — In an effort to encourage better reading habits in local youth, Maine’s first lady, Ann LePage made two stops in the Shiretown Monday, promoting the state’s “Read To Me” challenge.

LePage, along with Lee Anne Larsen, literacy specialist for the Maine Department of Education, visited with students at Houlton Elementary School in the morning, where LePage read to several classes.

The two also appeared later at the regular weekly meeting of the Houlton Rotary Club to talk about literacy issues.

“We are pleased to host Ann LePage here at Houlton Elementary School,” said principal Candace Crane Monday morning. “The Houlton Rotary Club has been working hard to promote both adult and child literacy. We know Mrs. LePage loves to read to kids and our kids love to be read to, so it was a perfect combination.”

The official Read to Me challenge involves several steps to promote reading in the state’s youth, according to Larsen.

“Mrs. LePage has graciously kicked off the Read to Me challenge each year, since we began it three years ago,” Larsen said Monday. “As a result, there are many schools who reach out to her at this time of the year to come to their schools for a visit. We time the Read To Me challenge so that it leads up to the Read Across America Day (Friday, March 2).’”

“The Department of Education approached me and asked if I would help them kick it off,” LePage said. “If I can give anyone advice about reading, it is ‘read, read and read to your kids.’ Just get your kids some books and make it fun for them. Get something that interests them and read. It opens up their minds and imaginations.”

Reading to schoolchildren is something LePage has developed a fondness for.

“You never know what the kids are going to want to do,” she said. “We went to St. Michael’s School in Augusta last week and the kids wanted me to read the book (a second time), and they started reading along. So I just backed off and let them read to me. It opens up their imagination.”

The steps to Maine’s Read to Me challenge are simple. Participants are asked to do the following:

— Read to and/or have a child/children read to you for at least 15 minutes.

— Read an engaging book, chapter of a novel, newspaper or magazine article, comics, nursery rhymes or poetry.

— Capture a photograph or short video (15-30 seconds) of yourself reading to the child.

— Use #ReadtoME or #ReadaloudME to post the photo or video on social media with your challenge to others to read aloud 15 minutes to a child or children they know. Recommended social media platforms include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube.

Locally, the kick-off event was held during the annual Moosestompers activities on Saturday, Feb 3, at the John Millar Civic Center. That event was a big success as 27 children completed the 15-minute reading challenge. All participants received a free hot chocolate and a new book.

Upcoming events in Houlton as part of the Read to Me Challenge include: Saturday, Feb 17, at the Cary Library from 10-11 a.m. and Saturday, Feb 24, at the County Co-op from 10-11 a.m.

Those who wish also may donate a book to a school or public library, a food cupboard or  homeless shelter.

For more information, visit http://www.maine.gov/doe/readtome/.

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