Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What a Year! (copy)

What a year! Beginning in January, I walked into Northwest’s R.C. Pugh Library and became the Public Services and Reference Librarian. My location and job title changed, but my mission remained the same—Make Mississippi Read!

Of course, no one can really make a person read. The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” applies here. I guess studies have been conducted to prove this point.

Imagine a windowless, solid-white room containing only one object, a book. Now, place a human being in said room. The odds will not be in our “reading” favor. We only have a 50 percent chance he will pick the book up and flip through it. We have a 25 percent chance he will actually read it, but we also have a 25 percent chance he will use it as a pillow.

My work is, as they say, cut out for me. At a reading level of one, an adult will be able to make out important words like “stop” and “sale” but will not be able to read simple sentences. Thirty percent of adults in the state of Mississippi are at level one. Thirty-four percent of adult Mississippians read at level two—equivalent to an eight-grade level.

I will say it again; I have my work cut out for me, but I am not alone. Many teachers and librarians across the state have the same challenge.

These articles have been my opportunity to reach newspaper readers in north Mississippi. As of January 1, 2006, I have written fifty articles featuring over 100 books. At an average of 400 words an article, that’s 20,000 words worth of book talking. Pshew, I’m tired.

The following were my favorite books for 2006: A Year of Magical Thinking (2005) by Joan Didion, Marley and Me (2005) by John Grogan, Devil’s Teeth (2006) by Susan Casey, Early Escapades (2006) by Eudora Welty, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2002) by Lorna Ladvik, In Cold Blood (1965) by Truman Capote, Zamba (2005) by Ralph Helfer, and An Ordinary Man (2006) by Paul Rusesabagina.

I understand that I am reaching a reading public, but my hope is the book talks spread. I envision a word-of-mouth possibly firing up a non-reader to get involved. I realize I cannot make a person read. The individual must make that life enhancing choice.

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