Friday, January 4, 2008

Books, Books, Books!

Keith Davis has traversed the wilds of Cuba and witnessed the political turmoil in parts of South America. He journeys not as Keith Davis, Vail Valley resident and retired orthodontist, but as Doc Ford, a marine biologist-turned-CIA operative and the main character in his favorite fictional series by Randy Wayne White.

Therein lies the charm of reading for me. By the way Randy Wayne White is a Florida Gulf Coast type. I read his slightly comic, suspenseful and colorful novels routinely. If you want to see an interesting video, check out Lost Man's River, an adventure he undertook with Peter Matthiesen in the Everglades. Hard to find, but it exists. And if you want to read a truly fascinating book, read Lost Man's River by Matthiesen. Based on historical events, it is tres good.

But I guess Frost was right. Road does lead onto road. Back to the point. The quote is from an article in the Vail Trail about one county's bucking the national trend. We all remember that survey in which 1 in 4 adults hadn't read a book or some such. Well, Sarah L. Stewart examines Eagle county in light of its reading habits and finds it better than most. I could claim the same for Sarasota County. Despite the seemingly single-minded worship of wealth here, we are a surprisingly literate town with one of the most used library systems in the state of Florida.

I highlight the article, because despite the depressing statistics, I see signs of a resurgence in interest on the part of teens. I mentioned the same when I posted on the Sarasota Reading Festival. Now I've been noticing it at the book store. I suspect it's the result of more interesting books for preteens. Young children start out with picture books, many of which are astounding, all of which their parents acquire for them. As they graduate to chapter books, there is the Magic Treehouse Series, which they gobble up. And then Junie B. Jones. But where do you go from there? Well, there was the Lemony Snicket series, which became a phenomenon. And there are now any number of exciting, easy reading series for the age group. I didn't include Harry Potter, because they are a bit more difficult.

None of these fun books is particularly literary. The point is to introduce children to the joy of reading. Just as there are gateway drugs, there are gateway books. Do I hear Nancy Drew, anyone? How many of us can remember that first book or series that turned us onto reading? For me, it was the Happy Hollisters.

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