Opinion

Sound off: Start a winter reading tradition

By JONALYN WOOLF-IVORY

For those of us who love to read, winter is a watershed for our favorite activity. Short days, rainy weekends, soft blankets – these all set a perfect stage for a good book and a cup of coffee. Many of us who made careers out of libraries did so because books and reading played such important roles in our early lives.

But I know, from what’s going on in libraries and book stores around Island and Snohomish counties, that books and reading are important to many, many other people. Books are a common denominator for people, regardless of age, income, gender, or ethnicity. Books bring us together in magical ways. Books touch our lives with a story and the turn of a page.

At the Sno-Isle Libraries, we wanted to capture that special connection in a more meaningful way. Two years ago, we launched a first for us – a yearlong reading initiative for all ages. In 2006, we begin our third Year of the Book – this time emphasizing the Seasons of Reading.

While we are following calendar seasons, the concept of a season of reading is more than winter, spring, summer, or fall. A season could mean a flurry of books on the American Revolution, or a sprinkle of novels by a new author. Just as easily, a season could be long hot days of mass market mysteries, or a gust of spring gardening books.

Nor surprisingly, the Puget Sound area is known for its reading capacity. People in this part of the country are avid readers – we know this because bookstore sales are high, education is important, and libraries are well-used and important community centers.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us who work with books every day. There are hundreds of active book discussion groups in Island and Snohomish counties, reading and talking about books like “The Kite Runner” and “My Sister’s Keeper.” Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” remains a bestseller – nearly three years after its hardcover release.

Non-fiction accounts of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet appointments and achieving a purpose-driven life scramble to the top of high demand books and stay there for months. Despite prognostications from 10 years ago that books and dinosaurs would soon share the same extinct status, books are in fact more, not less important. There are currently 5.6 million books listed in Books in Print.

In my home, we have a family tradition every winter. We add at least one new book to our home’s winter reading collection. The winter break is the perfect time for my family to share our favorite “old reads,” as well as take our turn with the “new” book. Over the years we have read and re-read “The Polar Express,” reached for Michael Rosen’s “Elijah’s Angel,” and my son Macauley and I thumb through our winter cookbooks.

Maybe this winter you can start a reading tradition with your family. Any book will do. Can’t find a book? Give your local library a call. That’s one of our favorite requests to fill.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is Library Director for Sno-Isle Libraries.

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