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Upcoming Books & Benches events

The goal of "Books & Benches" is to promote sustainable reading habits and encourage families to spend time enjoying unique community art projects while exploring amazing places in the St. Croix River Valley. Meet at an Art Bench, spread out your blanket, choose a book to read together, explore the park's playground and trails, and pick out free books to bring home.

"Basically Somerset believes more books equals stronger readers. We are trying to increase sustainable reading habits all summer long by increasing access to books with the Bookmobile and the Books & Benches program," said Erin Hoff,

Somerset Title 1 Reading Interventionist. "Research shows us when kids have access to amazing literature, they will read. Reduce the access and reading stops or even slides backwards. Students who are exposed to a lot of books will pick up language and literacy more quickly."

Larry Forrest Memorial Park will host three events this summer, with the last event scheduled for 10 a.m. June 25. Picnic Point in Lakefront Park in Hudson will host an event at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, while Freedom Park in Prescott will host an event at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 27.

Hoff and The Phipps visual arts director Anastasia Shartin created the Books & Benches program three years ago. Books & Benches involves students visiting local art benches to learn how to celebrate art in nature while listening to a story from the public librarian; they take home as many free books as they want to sustain healthy reading habits all summer long. Additionally, at three of the six events a park ranger will do an activity with the children.

The Pop-Up Art + Nature events will take place at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 2 at Millpond Park in Osceola; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 17 at Picnic Point at Lakefront Park in Hudson; 2-5 p.m. Saturday, July 21 at Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk in St. Croix Falls; 1-4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 at Croixdale in Bayport, Minn.; and noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings, Minn.

Books & Benches is a Somerset Elementary Family Book Drive project in partnership with The Phipps Center for the Arts and Art Bench Trail community partners. The Art Bench Trail is a Phipps Center for the Arts program in partnership with the St. Croix Valley Foundation and the National Park Service. Go to ArtBenchTrail.org for directions and information, or contact Erin Hoff (ehoff@somerset.k12.wi.us) or Anastasia Shartin (ashartin@thephipps.org).

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