Tuesday, April 29, 2008

First lady, daughter tout joy of reading

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Giggles erupted every few seconds as the mixed-age audience listened to Laura and Jenna Bush read their new children's book, "Read All About It!"
An overhead screen displayed the book's pages, which the first lady and her daughter alternated reading Monday night to about 800 adults and children at Naperville North High School.

The two recently published the book, which tells the story of a feisty kid named Tyrone who would rather play freeze tag than spend time reading. But when his teacher begins reading to the class, Jasper the Ghost, Benjamin Franklin, a pudgy pig and other characters come alive.

When the pig disappears after his teacher finishes reading a book, Tyrone goes searching for the character. He finds the pig and the other characters in the library and concludes that reading is a great activity after all.

Clutching their own copies - which were included with the $25 ticket price - attendees filed across the auditorium stage for a book signing as soon as the Bushes finished reading. Cosette Thompson, 7, was beaming as she left the stage.

"I think it was an awesome book," she said. "I like that it was a mystery."

Her mother, Kimberly Thompson, home-schools Cosette and her sister, Manon. The Downers Grove resident said she holds "story-telling tea parties" at her home about once a month, during which friends dress up, read stories and enjoy treats from different time periods.

Just as the parties help reading and learning come alive for her daughters, the Bushes' new book also shows that story characters can become good friends, Thompson said.

"I think when a child reads this, they'll learn the concept that they'll become friends with the characters," she said.

Nicarico benefit

Sitting directly in front of the stage were seven relatives of Jeanine Nicarico - a Naperville girl who was abducted and murdered in 1983. A portion of the evening's ticket sales will benefit the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Fund for Literacy, administered by the Naperville Education Foundation.

Chris, one of Nicarico's sisters, remembered that Jeanine had struggled with reading, similar to the LEAP program students who met with the Bushes earlier in the day.

"To see this ... it's very special because of what type of learner she was," Chris said.

Laura Bush is known for promoting literacy throughout the world by launching book festivals, hosting conferences and speaking about the benefits of reading. She spent eight years working in elementary schools in Texas, teaching classes and serving as a librarian.

The event marked Laura Bush's third visit to the western suburbs as first lady. She made appearances in Addison and Schaumburg to campaign for U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam and David McSweeney during their 2006 races.

Her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, was the last presidential wife to visit the area when she spoke in 2000 at Benedictine University.

Jenna Bush also taught elementary school in Washington, D.C., after graduating from the University of Texas in 2004. She visited Naperville in October when she was touring with an earlier book, "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope."

Published by HarperCollins and illustrated by Denise Brunkus, "Read All About It!" is sold at Anderson's Bookshop for $17.99.

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