- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

First lady Laura Bush, a onetime school librarian, has translated her love of reading into a first National Book Festival, set for Sept. 7-8 in Washington.
Mrs. Bush joined Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and NBA star Ray Allen yesterday to announce plans for the free two-day event, which will feature readings, book signings by nearly 50 well-known American authors and musical performances. She also announced the creation of her own library foundation to help outdated school libraries obtain new books and reference materials.
Authors slated to appear at the festival are mystery writer Sue Grafton, historian Stephen E. Ambrose and legal thriller scribe Scott Turow. Performers representing Appalachian, American Indian and black cultures will display the nation's storytelling tradition, Mr. Billington said.
"I believe that every American should have the sense of adventure and satisfaction that comes from reading a good book and I might add, a good newspaper," the first lady said.
With a national book event, Mrs. Bush builds on her successful stint as founder of the Texas Book Festival in her home state.
She said she will use the national festivities to inspire American families to develop a stronger interest in reading.
"She is energizing an ever-widening circle with her passion for reading," said Mr. Billington, praising Mrs. Bush's initiatives.
"Reading is critical both for our personal lives and for the creative lives of our nation," he said.
Mr. Allen, of the Milwaukee Bucks, was on hand representing the National Basketball Association, which earlier this year began its own literacy effort called "Read to Achieve."
He said several NBA and WNBA players would attend the first lady's book celebration, using their role-model status to draw attention to the importance of learning to read.
"We want kids to love to read and we want adults to love to read to kids," said Mr. Allen, who says he enjoys reading to his young daughter. "We all know that what kids see, they'll be."
The book festival will open on Sept. 7 with a back-to-school program at the Library of Congress with students from two Washington public schools. Mrs. Bush and Mr. Billington will read to the youths. That night, Mrs. Bush will host a black-tie dinner at the library.
On Sept. 8, authors will read from their latest works and sign their books in five large tents on the east lawn of the Capitol. The library also will showcase its National Digital Library Learning Center to shine a spotlight on computer learning and technology.
The Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries will help school libraries extend their book selections through a series of grants, her office said. The foundation, will be set up through the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.
Information on the book festival is available on the Internet at: www.loc.gov/bookfest .

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