AUGUSTA — Hello Kitty tilted her giant fuzzy white head to whisper a message in state Sen. Roger Katz’s ear, because the mouthless character had a message to pass on to Lincoln Elementary School students:

Reading can take you places.

Both in your imagination. And in your future.

The iconic Japanese character, and Katz, from Augusta, joined Olmpian Julia Clukey and other community leaders at Lincoln on Monday to kick off the school’s read-a-thon by encouraging students to go places by reading.

Like to Mars, for example.

State Rep. Maeghan Maloney told students that her 5-year-old son, Colin, wants to go there.

“Can we go to Mars?” Maloney asked students, to a chorus of “No!”

“That is why we read books about Mars, because that’s the best way to go there. You can get there by reading books.”

Other guest readers included business owner Norm Elvin, radio disc jockey Jon James, several city councilors, Assistant District Attorney Steve Parker, skateboarder and businessman Tobias Parkhurst and city officials.

Clukey said reading helps her get down the icy luge tracks she races on faster.

“For 14 years, reading has been a very important part of my luge career,” she said, noting she reads about nutrition and technique. “My competition is in Europe, but I can read the same things they are, 4,000 miles away. Reading gives us knowledge, and gives each of us the opportunity to learn the same thing.”

Some guest readers told the young students they were not strong readers when they were in elementary school.

Augusta Mayor William Stokes acknowledged he was a reluctant reader at their age until he discovered a love of books in high school.

Stokes read “Diary of a Fly,” by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss, to a class of third-graders, and urged students to discover where reading and their imaginations can take them.

“You can let the book take you to another time, another place,” he said. “So don’t just listen to the words, listen to it and let your imagination run wild.”

Parkhurst treated sixth-graders to “Text 4 Revenge,” by Jason Strange, a mystery featuring middle school-aged students who skateboard.

Councilor David Rollins, whose large frame towered over the first-graders who sat on the floor, read “Cranberry Valentine,” by Wende Devlin, but not until after he’d tried, with varying degrees of success, to learn and pronounce each students’ name.

“My name’s Dave,” said Rollins, who attended Augusta schools from kindergarten through Cony High School. “It’s an old-school name. I’m an old-school guy.”

Other read-a-thon events this week, according to Principal Heather Gauthier, include Crazy Sock Day for Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks,” Clash Day for Ms. Frizzle of the Magic School Bus series, and Beach Day and Pajama Day.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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