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Monday is 'Read Across America' Day in Wadena

For bookstore owner Gillette Kempf, reading is a fundamental expression of freedom.

"Once you know something, nobody can ever take that away from you," she said. "Reading is the most powerful thing that we have."

Kempf, a city council member, wrote a resolution to declare Monday as "Read Across America Day in the City of Wadena." The council passed it unanimously earlier this month.

Sponsored annually by the National Education Association, this year's celebration takes place around what would have been Dr. Seuss's 109th birthday.

The resolutions states: "Whereas, the citizens of Wadena, Minnesota stand firmly committed to promoting reading as the catalyst for our student's future academic success, their preparation for America's jobs of the future and their ability to compete in a global economy ..."

People read a lot more than they realize, whether it be street signs or articles online, Kempf said. She said she hopes everyone takes "a little bit of time on Read Across America Day to read consciously."

Monday also marks the first day of a weeklong Scholastic Book Fair at the Wadena-Deer Creek middle/high school media center. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days and during parent-teacher conferences next Thursday night, the fair will offer "books for all ages," said WDC media specialist Loni Niles.

Even with smartphones, television and video games increasingly diverting their attention, Niles said children are still finding time for books.

"The sales have remained steady throughout the years," she said. "Kids are still buying books - or parents are buying books for their kids anyway."

The school district observed "I Love to Read Month" throughout February. With the theme "Bank on Books," the month's festivities kicked off with Superintendent Lee Westrum reading a story to elementary students at an assembly. The celebration will conclude Friday, when elementary students will take shifts reading aloud in the hallway during every minute of the school day.

"Reading enriches your whole life," Niles said. "It helps you grow and learn and know about the world around you."