April 23 was World Book Night. I had the great honor of being selected as a Book Giver. I had written an essay describing how I became a reader, the book that turned me into a reader — Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot — which I read in grade 2 or 3 (and still own) and why I wanted to be able to give someone else that experience of becoming a reader. I picked up my books last weekend, but had no time on April 23 to pass them out. The trick was, they had to be given to reluctant readers — folks who don’t read a lot. And the book I was given to pass out was a wonderful book — but it was for adults. As a teacher, I encounter many children who don’t love to read yet. Passing books out to adults seemed daunting….
So this morning, I went to our largest, busiest municipal park with my box of books. A Shakespeare Festival was underway — I was worried there would be no reluctant readers in the crowd. But I was wrong. Adults don’t read because 1. We don’t have time; 2. We don’t know what to read; and 3. We read all sorts of stuff we HAVE to read, so the great joy of reading disappears….
That is, until we rediscover it.
Today I experienced the great joy of connecting people with a great book — The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, but Junot Diaz, winner of the Pullitser Prize for Literature a few years back. I read it a year or so ago. I was worried passing it out because it is NOT light reading. It is great, compelling reading. But it is pretty intense. I walked around the park telling people I was giving away books for World Book Night, but said that I was not allowed to give books to people who would already describe themselves as book worms, or who already had their noses buried in books. Then I asked them how they would describe themselves as readers. Many said they read a lot — a book a week, one man said. But many said they have no time, but would love a good book. I gave away a box of books in about an hour. I had some really nice conversations with people about books and reading, about this book in particular, and about what they were doing at the park. Two photography students took books — and also took pictures of my patched pants. My city is so beautifully diverse, it felt so wonderful to connect with all kinds of people — all ages, ethnicities, genders and socio-economic levels — over something as magnificent as a book, that we all can share and enjoy.
So, thank you, World Book Night, for allowing me to share my love of reading with strangers in such a beautiful experience!
Here’s the link to World Book Night. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/