Book Lovers: Local Celebrities Believe That Reading Matters
BY MISSY MILLER
Special to The Pilot
Whether she’s in an airport departing on a trip, or enjoying a book for her book club, Cos Barnes is thankful that she can read.
“What if I couldn’t read?” she wondered as she spoke to an audience at the Southern Pines Public Library. “How could you travel or do most anything?”
Barnes, a local author, was a member of the celebrity panel who spoke to a book-loving audience at the library on Sunday, Nov. 20.
Panelists also included Steve Bouser, editor of The Pilot; Mary Scott Harrison, principal of Southern Pines Elementary School; Hugh Mensch, town and library planning boards member; and Linda Pearson, executive director of the United Way of Moore County.
The program, titled “My Reading Life,” was based on Pat Conroy’s memoir of the same name, in which Conroy wrote about the books and authors that had an impact on his life and career.
“We thought the topic tied in perfectly with the town’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading” says Lynn Thompson, director of library and IT services. “The slogan for the campaign is ‘Reading Matters,’ and it’s a community-wide effort to ensure that all of our children succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship.”
To achieve this goal, students must be ready by the end of third grade to shift from learning to read to reading to learn.
The campaign targets three challenges:
Readiness gap — too many children entering kindergarten already behind.
Attendance gap — too many young children missing too many days of school
Summer gap — too many children losing ground academically over the summer or between sessions
The program speakers reflected on the books that particularly stuck with them as children, teenagers, and also their current favorites.
An audience member noted how each speaker had been read to as a child by his or her mother, and because of that had developed a love of reading.
Books the speakers enjoyed as children include the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys series; the Dick and Jane books; “Lightfoot the Deer,” by Thornton W. Burgess; “The Big Sky,” by A.B. Guthrie; “Beautiful Joe,” by Marshall Saunders; and “The Little Engine that Could.”
Hugh Mensch says his mother is responsible for him being able to read before he entered first grade. “She would run her finger along the page as she read, and I learned the words from that,” he says.
Although he doesn’t read fiction, Mensch reads and enjoys a lot of nonfiction, depending on what topic is of interest to him at the moment. Three of his favorite books he has read recently include “How the South Could Have Won the Civil War,” by Bevin Alexander; “The Machine that Changed the World,” by Womack, et al.; and “Guns, Germs and Steel,” by Jared Diamond.
When Linda Pearson held up a copy of Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” most of the audience nodded in agreement that it was one of their favorites also. Her other favorites include Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” and, yes, a young adult book from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
“It is so good,” says Pearson.
Mary Scott Harrison doesn’t have a lot of time for “fun” reading because she does so much professional reading. But she says if she gets into a really good book, she will read it until she’s finished even if it means staying up way too late. She likes nonfiction about World War II or fiction set in that time period, and also mentioned that she recently enjoyed Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help,” and Dorothea Benton Frank’s “Folly Beach.”
Steve Bouser has less time for reading at this point in his life, because he’s just too busy working and writing. He majored in English and read a lot in the past, so he shared some titles that are his all-time favorites, including “The Great Bridge” and “The Path Between the Seas,” both by David McCullough; “Timebends,” by Arthur Miller; and “Personal History,” by Katherine Graham.
Although the book titles varied from speaker to speaker, there was one thing they all agreed upon: Reading is a joy, and instilling a love of reading in a child is one of the best gifts you can give them.
Those interested in joining the Campaign for Grade Level Reading as a volunteer or who would like more information can contact the library at (910) 692-8235 or visit www.sppl.net.
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