Celebrating ‘Read Across America’ during pandemic

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — March is National Reading Month to motivate people of all ages to read every day. The Urbana Free Library held the 21st annual ‘Read Across America.

‘Read Across America’ is really just a celebration of literacy and reading among young children,” Program Coordinator Niki Hoesman says.

The National Education Association started the day in 1998 in an effort to get children to read.

“Reading is important for a lot of the children because it’s education. Especially outside of school. I think outside of school, they don’t really read as much.” Says Program Assistant Matthew Lewis

The event is normally inside Lincoln Square Mall, but the pandemic forced them to get creative.
Organizers put together hundreds of bags filled with crafts, fun activities, and of course – a free book.

“We’ve all been so really appreciative of the community embracing this kind of drive through event, many people this morning have already, you know, thanked us for coming out here, which is really heartwarming, and makes me feel good that we continue to this year,” Says Hoesman.

Niki Hoesman’s been involved for the past 4 years. She says books by author Mo Williams is a popular choice with kids.

So is Dr. Suess – whose birthday is the inspiration for the day.

“It’s really important for kids just to get that new book, it’s so exciting to get something just new and exciting, especially when they’re not, you know, around their peers, as much as they used to be,” Hoesman says.

She says there is nothing else she would rather be doing.

“Every year, I look forward to this more than anything else. So no, it’s not a job at all. I love it.”

She says she also loves how books can take your imagination places – you can’t go during a pandemic.

Tomorrow, there will be a live panel where parents can talk to literacy professionals.

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