PERU — More than a dozen “heroes” read to Dirigo Elementary School students Friday morning stories about people doing heroic acts and good deeds.

The Read Across America Day program included a video of Derrick Gilbert, an electronics technician with the U.S. Navy, who read from aboard a ship where he works. He is the son of Dirigo teacher Donna Gilbert.

Dixfield police officer Anne Simmons-Edmunds, who has participated in the program for three years, read stories to kindergarten students of Tanya Perreault and Sue Bousquet.

“You know what? I think you’re all heroes,” she told them. “You’re in school, you’re learning, and you’re all reading. To me, that’s a sign of a hero, too. You don’t have to wear a uniform, or a costume, or a mask to be a hero. All great learners are heroes.”

Simmons-Edmunds asked students what they considered to be a police officer’s biggest job.

“Pulling people over who speed” and “Catching the bad guys,” some said.

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“Our biggest job is making friends with all of you kids, so you feel like you can come to us when you have a problem,” Simmons-Edmunds said.

Several students told the officer about heroes in their family. One said his uncle is a firefighter, and another said their mother was a police officer.

Two students added that they wanted to be police officers when they grow up because their own parents were police officers.

“That is fantastic,” Simmons-Edmunds said. “You shake your parents’ hands for me when you go home.”

Perreault presented the officer with a gift-wrapped bag of snacks that her students had made.

“We really appreciate you coming in and reading to us, because everyone needs to know how to read,” Perreault said.

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Capt. Jason Hyde of the Dixfield Fire Company said this was his third year participating in the program and it was “a lot of fun.”

“Usually I’m the only one representing the Dixfield Fire Company, but this year we had a few people who volunteered,” he said. “There seemed to be a real interest in the event this year, which is great.”

Gilbert and librarian Cindy Petherbridge spearheaded the program, selecting people to read to students from prekindergarten to fifth grade.

“We wanted to get a wide variety of what we consider ‘heroes,’” Petherbridge said. “We have troops, police officers and firemen, but we also have what we call ‘community heroes,’ or people who have done good deeds for others and helped people in some way.”

“It’s a good way to show that anybody can be a hero,” Gilbert added.

Teacher Bethany Poulin said organizers wanted Read Across America Day to have a local focus.

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Guest readers were:

* Thomas Barnett, U.S Navy

* Jason Wing, Maine State Trooper

* Anne Simmons-Edmunds, Dixfield Police Department

* Lt. Jeff Howe, Dixfield Police Department

* Capt. Jason Hyde, Dixfield Fire Company

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* Shawn MacFarlene, Dixfield Fire Company

* Nicole Breau, Dixfield Fire Company

* Barry Prescott, firefighter

* Erin Wainwright, nurse

* Ed Ellis, finance officer of the Dixfield American Legion and U.S veteran

* Bridget Daigle, first vice president of the Ladies Auxiliary

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* John Mooney, U.S veteran

* Therese Prue, librarian and community hero

* Michelle Gilbert, wife of ET2 Derrick Gilbert, U.S. Navy

* Colleen Bernard

* June Gaimbatistta, teacher

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