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Gresham's free book program expands to new locations across community to better serve local children

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis and his wife, Alix Bemis, read to students from KinderCare during a celebration of expanding Gresham Reads.Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis and his wife, Alix, took time to read to children from Gresham KinderCare during a Tuesday event to celebrate the expansion of a city program to offer free books at local restaurants.

The community celebrated the expansion of Gresham Reads, which places bookshelves in seven restaurants across the community, during an event Tuesday morning, May 22, at Biscuits Café, 1905 N.E. Division St. The 10 kids who attended got to eat cinnamon rolls, listen to stories and pick out their own book to take home.

"Gresham Reads is going really well and we have heard great feedback from the restaurants," said Alix, who has been one of the driving forces behind the program. "The books are being taken all the time."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The new Gresham Reads bookshelves can be found at Biscuits Café, 1905 N.E. Division St.; McDonalds, 900 S.W. Highland Drive; and Dutch Bros, 1239 N.E. Kane Drive.Biscuits Café, the McDonalds at 900 S.W. Highland Drive, and Dutch Bros at 1239 N.E. Kane Drive, were the new additions to Gresham Reads, which began last September. They join Sugar Cubed Cakes, 101 N. Main Ave.; Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon, 16223 N.E. Glisan St.; Shari's Café & Pies, 881 S.W. Highland Drive; and Burgerville, 2975 N.E. Hogan Drive.

"This is something cool for the kids to do in the restaurant while they eat, and I think it's important to support reading throughout the community," said David Ligatich, co-owner of Biscuits Café.

At each of the locations kids can enjoy a book while at the restaurant, and then bring one home. Offered are chapter books, picture books and comics — all available in several languages.

The books are stocked by the city and donations from community members. During the Biscuits Café celebration, many Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce members brought books.

"The community has been so great about donating books in all the locations," Alix said.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - One of the students from KinderCare showed off the book she picked out from the Gresham Reads case at Biscuits Café. On Tuesday Alix read "The Rainbow Fish," which is one of her favorites, while the mayor read "The Secret Life of Squirrels."

"I've never read this book, so I get to enjoy it for the first time with you," Bemis told the children, who he had rolling with laughter during storytime.

The city and local businesses continue to support Gresham Reads because of the positive impact it has for local kids. If children can't read by the third grade, they are more likely to drop out of school and struggle.

"We want to have books all over the city so every kid in Gresham has an opportunity to get a book," said the mayor.

Anyone with books they would like to donate to Gresham Reads can drop them off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis spent the morning reading with children and excitedly finding some books he read when he was a tyke.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - All of the children who went to the Tuesday morning celebration got books and tasty cinnamon rolls from Biscuits Café.

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