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Laura Bush Promotes Reading at Moscow Book Festival


First Lady Laura Bush has joined her Russian counterpart, Lyudmila Putin, to spread the joy of reading at the first Moscow book festival hosted by the Russian president's wife.

Mrs. Bush traveled to Moscow to spread American values through books.

The First Lady described the Moscow book festival as really a celebration of freedom "to write what we want to write, and to read what we want to read."

Mrs. Bush, a former school librarian, said she likes to read mystery books. But she said this past summer she fell in love with the popular Harry Potter children's book series, named after one of the main characters, a young British boy named Harry, who has magical powers.

"I read those books at home in Texas, but I felt like I was a world away, hiding in my invisibility cloak and making magic potions with Harry [Potter]," she said. "A really good book makes you feel like you are part of the story."

Mrs. Putin added that a really good book can also cross cultural divisions.

Mrs. Putin has remained largely out of the Russian political scene, but has become involved recently in a bid to protect the Russian language against increasing Western influences from movies and music.

Earlier, at a roundtable discussion at the Kremlin devoted to literature and education, Mrs. Putin said the world must try to make children read more.

Mrs. Bush agreed, adding that American children are far too addicted, in her view, to television. The two first ladies urged parents and children alike to see to it that television dials in their homes are turned less than the pages of a good book.

Russia has high literacy rates, but funding for libraries through the years has been small to non-existent. There is also a shortage of books specifically aimed at children and young adolescents in Russia.