If you love to read, you have a mission.
We have to get every kid we know juiced about reading. And this isn’t just my usual rant about reading newspapers.
Go hug a book today. It might be the most important thing you do.
I just bought two novels at lunch -– and I’m juiced about reading them, thanks to the author, Chris Bohjalian. He was the featured speaker at today’s Library Foundation Author Luncheon, held to benefit the Manatee County Public Library System. He’s on a whirlwind book tour touting his novels -– Bradenton is his 27th city since Feb. 11.
Chris has the gift of owning his audience. He had us chuckling as he shed any notion that a book tour is all about glamour and rubbing elbows with famous people. He had us applauding after telling how his hometown in Vermont lost its library in a flood, and how three generations of townspeople bailed out what they could from the library even as their own homes were flooded. He had all of us wannabe authors amazed at how his novels are borne from some crystallized moment or event that touched his life.
Each of his tales came together in one message: “Nothing is more important than getting kids juiced about reading books.” Reading is meant to be fun, no matter the vehicle. Just like we are unsure what a newspaper will look like in 100 years, we don’t know what books will look like by then. “But we’ll still be reading books,” Chris declared.
And we believe him, despite the discouraging numbers he dished out at the start. A National Endowment for the Arts survey found that, in the mid-1980s, 57 percent of American adults had read at least one book. Today, that number is a dismal 46 percent -– a decline of 20 million readers of fiction.
Here’s the flip side of those numbers. When his town lost its library, the word went out. Donations came in from around the world to replace it, and Burlington has a new library today.
Manatee County has discussed cutting library hours and even closing some branches in these tough budget times. We have work to do, fellow readers. An amazing chunk of that work has been shouldered by the Library Foundation for the past 20 years. That group has raised more than $450,000 for books, children’s literature and even a bookmobile, local attorney and foundation president Mark Barnebey told the luncheon.
Chris Bohjalian called us all "medieval monks" because we’re still avid booklovers. But he left us with this encouraging factoid: There are still more public libraries than MacDonald’s fast-food restaurants.
Love those double-cheeseburgers, but not without a book in the other hand!