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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 First Ladies Throw a Book Bash

APU.S. first lady Laura Bush escorting Lyudmila Putin around Capitol Hill during the National Book Festival on Saturday.
WASHINGTON -- First lady Laura Bush welcomed first lady Lyudmila Putin to the White House as a fellow book lover Saturday to kick off a day-long National Book Festival that expands a tradition she began in Texas.

The first lady has a master's degree in library science. Her visitor, the wife of President Vladimir Putin, is a philologist, or linguistic expert, and has taken an interest in provincial libraries.

The two spent the morning together, including a half-hour private coffee in the Yellow Oval Room, at a time when relations between their husbands are strained over what demands should be included in a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq.

That reflects what aides say is the first lady's determination to transcend politics with her education agenda, which has two focuses: encouraging parents and caregivers to read to children in the years between crib and classroom, and promoting teaching as a career.

The first lady opened the book festival, organized by the Library of Congress, with a ceremony in the East Room. In it, she saluted "the pure joy of the bookworm -- the one who sits in a quiet chair and focuses on just one thing."

Lyudmila Putin drew laughter and applause from the audience of authors, including Mary Higgins Clark and Sebastian Junger, by saying through an interpreter that books must not be forgotten in this era of technology. "We must not serve computers," she said. "Computers must serve us."

She said she hopes to be able to hold her own book festival in Russia.