Hitting the books

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August 14, 2007

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Thousands of readers will be laughing out loud this fall at hundreds of libraries across the country as the LOL at Your Library program and WrestleMania Reading Challenge get underway. CM Punk, Kristal, The Miz and, of course, your teacher, Matt Striker, began preparing for the events at Stamford's Ferguson Library, posing for a poster and sharing their thoughts on reading.

"When I was a kid, I'd have trouble sleeping at night," The Miz remembered. "When I wasn't sleeping, I'd be reading."

The Miz took part in contests similar to the WrestleMania Reading Challenge when he was in school. And since he read so often, he excelled every year.

"I enjoyed using my imagination," he added. "I could create anything I wanted."

Teen Read Week kicks off the challenge on Oct. 14. Teenagers in grades seven through 12 are challenged to read 10 books and keep a log. After submitting their logs along with essays, judges from participating libraries will select which contestants advance to the regional finals. All teens in the challenge will receive a poster and those who win their region at each grade level will be awarded T-shirts. The 10 readers who make it through regional finals will each receive two free roundtrip tickets to Orlando, Fla. to compete in the national finals and the two champions -- each from a different age bracket -- will sit ringside at WrestleMania. The contest runs until Jan. 14.

Two years ago, the American Library Association and WWE collaborated to produce a Teen Read Week poster. Since the product was such a success, the two organizations agreed to work together again, this time in Stamford's own public library.

"We're very pleased to have WWE here today," said Caroline Ward, head of the Youth Department at Ferguson Library. "This poster will be sent to libraries throughout the country. This is a really positive partnership. So many of WWE's fans use libraries and for the ones who don't, it's a really great message."

Ward, who was accompanied by several teenaged bookworms eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite Superstars, added, "I think kids are going to love this poster and it's going to hang in hundreds and hundreds of libraries."

The Miz, Kristal and CM Punk were laughing it up plenty during the LOL at Your Library photo shoot, reading books and sharing stories. All the while, Striker shook his head with a disapproving sneer on his face.

"The three of them are clowning around while I -- surprisingly enough -- am trying to be serious and get some learning involved," said the Extreme Educator.

Striker rolled his eyes as he mentioned the Straightedge Superstar and the author of the Mizard of Oz.

"We're going to have some big books and some words that The Miz definitely can't pronounce, some punctuation that CM Punk will undoubtedly butcher and then pretty pictures, like Kristal."

Just as with every edition of ECW on Sci Fi, Striker enjoyed another day of combining perhaps his two greatest passions -- WWE and education.

"All in all," he proclaimed, "books contain knowledge… like me, Matt Striker (wink), your teacher."

While Striker was all about getting down to business, the other Superstars snickered at him as they recalled reading memories.

"I read a ton when I was a kid because I thought it made me smarter than everyone else," said CM Punk. "I would write on the inside cover of the book when I started it and when I finished it."

Punk went though virtually all of Stephen King's novels. His other favorite things to read were comic books and The Lord of the Rings series. Kristal, on the other hand, said she prefers juicy magazines and autobiographical books.

"We travel so much," she said. "It's a good way to spend time. It takes you away and it helps you relieve stress."

Currently, about 1,200 libraries are signed up to take part in the WrestleMania Reading Challenge. Ten contestants will reach the finals in Orlando and all participants will be able to enjoy reading like Striker, Kristal, The Miz and CM Punk.

"You don't need anything else to have a good time," the Straightedge Superstar said. "If it's just you and a book, you can chill out and relax. You don't need anything else to open up your imagination and really get into a book."

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