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Celebrate Read Across America on Monday, every day

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Mary Bell
February 28, 2009

Students and books will be in the spotlight in Wisconsin and across the country during Monday’s annual Read Across America celebration, which reminds not only children of the importance of reading—it lets us all know that we should be role models to build a nation of readers.


Those role models can be educators, parents, grandparents and community members eager to help motivate children to read. Wausau education support professional Peg Bestul serves as an important mentor for young readers at Wausau’s Franklin Elementary School. Peg said some children who start kindergarten do not know how to hold a pencil. But by the end of the year, they are reading, spelling and writing. In fact, she said many of her students are already reading at the first-grade level.


Peg said when a child comes up to her and says “I can read!” it’s like Christmas morning.


Events such as the National Education Association’s Read Across America event, which kicks off weeklong reading celebrations across the state—help to drive home the feeling that Peg gets helping students read.


As president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, I get the opportunity to talk daily with members such as Peg who work diligently to ensure that our children become lifelong learners and are prepared for jobs of the 21st century. Educators say strong reading and comprehension skills are one way to ensure children’s success.


I’m talking about members such as Montello School District reading specialist Mary Summers, who is unwavering in her efforts to help children who have trouble learning to read.


Mary equates her work to helping students solve a puzzle. She works incessantly with students to help them find the missing pieces and helps them solve their reading challenges. Although she’s been teaching for 30 years, Mary said she still feels a rush when her students put the pieces together and start to read. She also says it’s important that reading problems are caught early and addressed as soon as possible.


Mary’s excitement reminds me of Anne Gallagher, whose energy and enthusiasm for the Northwest United Educator’s annual Reading Celebration in Rice Lake is legendary.


Although retired, Anne said she remains passionate about the event because it brings together children, educators and the community. This year’s many partners included the Elk’s Lodge No. 1441, Girl Scouts, Rice Lake Public Library and area businesses. Anne says her community truly believes in the importance of education and that great schools benefit everyone.


Read Across America presents an opportunity for us to join Mary, Peg and Anne who work tirelessly to inspire students to read and encourage community partnerships.


Please join the reading celebrations in your community and help build a nation of readers, not only during this Read Across America week but throughout the year. As a former library media specialist, I suggest visiting www.weac.org/read to find a list of 100 books teachers recommend.


Mary Bell is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union. You can find out more about these issues, and how to become more involved, at weac.org. A place on the home page encourages you to tell WEAC what you believe about Wisconsin’s great schools and about your new school year resolutions.

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