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Community Read Celebration brings celebrities to PR-B

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The sixth annual Pine River-Backus Community Read brought author Pete Hautman and Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius into classrooms Monday, Nov. 18, to read and discuss the importance of education with students.

The Community Read Celebration encourages the school community to read to provide a model for the youth of the community. The event kicked off at the Oct. 21 school board meeting and featured book recommendations for various grade levels.

Grades seven through 12 read “Snatched” and “Blank Confession,” both by Hautman, while younger students read a variety of mystery-themed novels.

Hautman, author of more than 20 books and winner of the Minnesota Book Award, the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and other awards, spoke with five different groups of students in the PR-B High School band room throughout the day. He also gave a speech to those who came to the Pine River Chamber of Commerce sponsored luncheon at the school.

Hautman gave writing advice and answered students’ questions. He explained how “Blank Confession” was based on the book and movie “Shane,” and the main character was inspired by a high school student he once met who wore a bright orange suit and matching tie to one of his book talks.

He told students the inspiration for writing a book can come from anywhere. His book “How to Steal a Car” was inspired by a 14-year-old student who told him she would like to read a book about a girl who steals a car.

Asked what he thought about the Community Read event, Hautman said, “I think it’s awesome. I think every community should do it several times a year. I think they should all use my books.”

At the luncheon, Hautman said Minnesota might have more writers per capita than New York.

Cassellius also met with students during the Community Read. She began the day by reading a Curious George book to Holly Rowell’s kindergarten class. She toured the elementary facilities before meeting with Hautman in the high school and giving a presentation to students about the Department of Education and the importance of education.

Cassellius said she came to PR-B to become familiar with another school in the state where she serves as commissioner of the Board of Education. She does regular school visits for this same purpose.