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Tallen Haag invited to governor's mansion

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Tallen Haag stands on the staircase at the governor's mansion while attending a state dinner for a summer reading contest. SUBMITTED

Portland Public Library had a winner in the First Lady's statewide Summer Reading Competition. Tallen Haag was one of 100 children invited to a state dinner with Gov. Bill Haslam and Crissy Haslam.

The event honored readers who participated in the statewide competition and was open to rising K-4 grade students.

"Reading over the summer is incredibly important so that students retain the skills

they've developed during the year instead of experiencing summer slide," Mrs. Haslam said. "We decided to hold this competition to encourage Tennessee students and their families to read more together over the summer and to incite them to visit their local libraries, so tonight has been a wonderful way to honor those who did just that."

Students tracked their number of minutes spent reading over the summer. The winners were chosen based on age, grade level, region and number of minutes read during the designated time period.

When the children arrived at the Tennessee residence, they walked in on a red carpet. While at the event, the children had a formal dinner, played games, enjoyed a photo booth, and musical entertainment from local children's performer Mr. Steve, the Music Man. Clifford the Big Red Dog also made an appearance.

The Haslam's congratulated the winners and asked the children and their families to continue reading together at least 20 minutes a day. The First Lady's Read20 message is part of her initiative to encourage children and their families to prepare for future success by ensuring strong foundations in early literacy.

The children were given goodie bags, certificates signed by the Governor and First

Lady Haslam. In addition, they received new books donated by Scholastic.

Tallen said, "I was a little nervous at first, but it was so much fun."

Tallen participated in the program through the Portland Public Library of Sumner County. Youth Services Librarian Linda Ackerman gave out the forms to keep track of minutes read, but she is quick to recognize Tallen's mother as her encourager. Tallen read 2,865 minutes during the summer.

Stacy Haag said, "Tallen knew she was working on the First Lady's summer reading program, but she didn't know that she was competing for a chance to attend a special party. I wanted the focus to be on improving her reading skills and

learning new information. Her dad and I were proud of her hard work, regardless.

"When news arrived that she had actually won an invitation to the governor's mansion, she was very surprised and excited. The event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We met some wonderful people, saw some beautiful art, laughed a lot, and enjoyed an evening celebrating the efforts of 100 special kids."

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