Stars Share Fun of Reading With Children

About 30 Ojai first-graders received a special lesson Wednesday about literacy and celebrity: The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Some of the town's more famous residents turned out to take part in "Day of a Thousand Stars: The Great American Read Aloud." The Ojai Library was the only branch in the county to participate in the annual nationwide event this year.

Among the noted storytellers was Chris Hillman of the '60s rock group The Byrds, who held his young fidgety fans, most of whom were from Arnaz Elementary School in Oak View, at rapt attention with his reading of "The Pelican."

There was actor and Ojai resident Dwier Brown, who played Kevin Costner's dad in "Field of Dreams," not missing a beat even if the children's book he read, "Wombat Stew," was missing a page--a perfect illustration of the financial constraints Ventura County's libraries face.

"I like stories, they're fun," said 7-year-old Hannah Meeker of Ojai, after Brown's spirited reading. "It was silly."

Marking the beginning of National Library Week, the Day of a Thousand Stars helps encourage children to read. In Ventura County, it also highlights the importance of libraries in molding young minds in a time of financial cutbacks.

"When there was this crisis in the libraries, we felt it was important to support the libraries in all kinds of ways," said Connie Pappas Hillman, as her husband read to the children. "The library has been a very integral part of our lives."

The couple's 13-year-old daughter, Catherine, volunteers at the Ojai Library's summer reading program for younger children, and their 8-year-old son, Nicholas, devours books, she said.

But for Ojai actress Kim Maxwell-Brown, formerly of TV's "Knots Landing," the event held more personal meaning.

"I was a horrendous reader as a child," she said. "I really want to support the libraries--and nothing is more fun than reading a story to a child."

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