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Oliver: World Book Night aims to ignite love of reading

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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For some of us, reading for pleasure comes almost as naturally as breathing.

To not read – or to not love to read – is unimaginable.

But there are many people for whom reading is not enjoyable or it’s something they’ve just gotten out of the habit of doing. How can we win them over to the joys of reading and show them what they’re missing?

Enter World Book Night, which will take place Tuesday.

It began in 2010 at London’s Book Industry Conference as a way to encourage more adults to read. Last year, it crossed the pond and took place here for the first time.

Tuesday’s date was chosen because it is the UNESCO International Day of the Book, as well as William Shakespeare’s birthday.

Here’s how it works: Each year, 30 books are chosen by a panel of librarians and booksellers. Authors waive their royalties and publishers pay the costs of printing special World Book Night editions of those titles.

Then bookstores and libraries sign up to be host sites for volunteer book givers.

In our area, the River East Public Library in Lakemoor is a host site, just as it was last year. In fact, it is one of only a couple of sites in all of northern Illinois, Library Director Cherie Wright said.

Volunteer book givers, who have to apply, get 20 copies of a title they’ve selected to hand out in the community.

“The effort is made to get a book into the hands of those who are not readers or are reluctant readers,” Wright said.

At River East, 22 givers, including four library staffers, will be picking up their books tonight at a special reception.

Wright will distribute her free copies of “Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life,” by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, at the McHenry Middle School track meet at McCracken Field in McHenry.

Another staffer will distribute her books at Fox Point Assisted Living in McHenry. She will use World Book Night to give a short presentation and perhaps start a book discussion group at the nursing home in the following weeks.

Book givers also will visit a strip mall at Darrell Road and Route 120 in Lakemoor and the shops near the McHenry Theater on Green Street in McHenry.

So why go to all this trouble? 

“Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement, and can have a positive effect on mental health and happiness,” according to the World Book Night website at www.worldbooknight.org.

It’s fun – and good for you, too.

During World Book Night, the goal is to give away half a million books in more than 6,000 towns across the country.

“We need to find something that makes you want to be a reader,” Wright said.

And once you’re hooked, it just might become as natural as breathing for you, too.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at joliver@shawmedia.com.

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