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I had intended to write about Woolf, Virginia today, but after my first experience with World Book Night this week, this seemed like an appropriate topic choice.
World Book Night happened for the first time here in the U.S. on Monday, April 23, 2012. Months ago, I signed up to be a book giver: basically, volunteers signed up to give away books to people who don't read very much. Authors gave up their royalties, and close to a million books were printed just for this event.
There were so many stories on Monday night of people going to courthouses and halfway houses, finding people who had never before had a book and giving them something precious. I felt a little deflated: I had planned to wait until Tuesday, and then distribute my copies of Tim O'Brien's The Things they Carried on the community college campus where I work part-time.
But then Tuesday morning dawned, and I lugged my box of books to my first class. College students are a hard sell: when I taught middle school, I could always influence my students' reading choices with honest enthusiasm, but when I book talked the novel to these guys, they just stared at me. Oh, well, I sighed, I'm sure I can give the books away.
Then, a wonderful thing happened: at the break, five or six of them dove for the box. Well, good, I thought! That's five or six who might actually choose to read something! (I teach developmental reading and writing: my students do not want to have anything to do with literature and language, but they are in the class because they tested too low for freshman English. If anyone is a non-reader, it's each of my students.)
Through the rest of my classes, all of the books were gobbled up, and not always by the students I had expected to take them: in my night class, the giggly, friendly women who sit in the back row dove for the books, while the men didn't move.
I was so excited, so giddy, to participate that I actually forgot my flash disk (with four semesters worth of lessons) in the morning classroom. (The story has a happy ending: it was found by my supervisor.)
World Book Night was an awesome experience this year, and I can't wait to participate next year! I'll certainly try to step outside of my comfort zone next time, but I still feel really good about the students who decided to read a book for fun.
Did you sign up to be a book giver? Did you even know about WBN? Have you ever convinced someone who didn't like to read to read a great book?