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Adults Are Reading More, But How Can I Help?

An article from the New York Times entitled Fiction Reading Increases for Adults really got me thinking. In particular, it was this paragraph:

Instead he attributed the increase in literary reading to community-based programs like the “Big Read,” Oprah Winfrey’s book club, the huge popularity of book series like “Harry Potter” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” as well as the individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders to create “a buzz around literature that’s getting people to read more in whatever medium.”

“The individual efforts.” Yes, librarians, and I would even say booksellers, are able to reach more people than I am. I’m not a parent, so I can’t influence my own children. I can, however, buy books for my niece and nephew and my friend’s daughter. This will be especially influential as they get older and I can pick out books that almost everyone remembers reading when they were young: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Boxcar Children are just a few that come to mind.

Who else can I influence, though? Certainly a well thought out gift in the form of a book to a non- or semi-reader would be a step in the right direction. You never know when a love of reading will spark. On the other hand, one of my hesitations in buying books as gifts is I hate to see a book languish at someone’s house, unopened, unread, and unloved.

I like to think that being in a book group helps inspire more reading. We talk about books other than the ones we pick to discuss, and I hope that members will seek out books that are especially loved and praised by various members. Anyone who expresses any kind of interest in reading is always welcome at my book group.

When I’m reading a fantastic book (such as The Help or The Hunger Games), I talk about that book to whoever will listen, readers and non-readers alike. Maybe, just maybe, my enthusiasm will rub off.

My blog could be considered a way to reach people, but it’s not the same as doing it in person. Besides, I’d bet that most people who read my blog enjoy reading anyway, if not to the same degree that I do.

All of this talk about how to influence people to read more makes me wish I worked in my local bookstore. 😀

Speaking of local bookstores…guess what program my local bookstore has? Okay, well, it’s not my closest local bookstore, because I’m rather disappointed in my closest local bookstore after seeing what this other local bookstore does, but I still consider it a local bookstore since it’s only 40 minutes away. Local in California is relative.

ANYWAY, blabber mouth that I am, this local bookstore, Book Passage, has a program called the Aunt Lydia Book Club. Here’s how they describe it:

It began when a favorite customer gave her favorite aunt a special gift—one book, every month, for a year.

Rather than picking, packing,and shipping the books herself, she arranged for us to do it. We picked books she would like and sent them to her. That inspired our Aunt Lydia Personal Book Club.
1. We send a certificate telling the recipients about the books they’ll be receiving.
2. We’ll discuss with you what books the recipient likes. Then we watch for just the right new books.
4. We’ll charge you for the books when they are shipped.
5. All books will be shipped with complementary gift wrap and a gift card.
6. All books are fully returnable (but most “Aunt Lydias” are usually very satisfied with their gifts).

Here’s How it Works:

You can personalize your Aunt Lydia gift to fit the gift recipient. People who love to travel can be given the gift of a new work of travel literature every month or two months. Fiction lovers can be sent fiction, mystery lovers the latest thrillers, and history buffs the finest of new historical writing.

HOW COOL IS THAT?

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to do this for anyone right now, but I’m totally keeping this in mind for the future. A handpicked book sent as a gift once a month?! Talk about thoughtful.

So friends! What kinds of individual efforts do you do to encourage reading? Do you read to your kids? Buy books as gifts even if you know the book may languish on a shelf? Got any good ideas for me?

| Tags: , 24 comments »

24 Responses to “Adults Are Reading More, But How Can I Help?”

  1. Vasilly

    I love this post! To encourage reading I joined The Year of the Reader challenge and started regularly donating money to Firstbook.org and 826national.org, both are organizations that encourage literacy. I donate books to my local library and buy my children mostly books instead of toys. My kids and I have a book club just for us. We try to read silently and to each other every day. I can’t imagine my life without books.

    The Aunt Lydia Book Club sounds great. But I would rather give someone a book I’ve read and loved with a note why they’re getting it, instead of just a new book every month.

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  2. Stephanie

    I’m pretty good at purchasing books for my daughter’s friends when it’s their birthday, so even if their parents aren’t big readers, maybe the book I buy them might spark their own interest in reading. Just like you, at my book club meetings we always end with a discussion of what good books we have read over the last month. Most of the members actually bring pens and notebooks just to write down everyone’s reccomendations!

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  3. Staci

    That idea is great!! I understand about not being able to afford to do it but if you went to your local library booksale and bought 12 really good books, you could always send them yourself with a handwritten note or a handmade bookmark. That would be a very cool way to let someone know you care!! I work in a middle school library so I’m always out there on the floor trying to get that reluctant reader to pick up something to read, a magazine, manga, comic book, book…whatever, I don’t care. I just want to see these kids to be readers for life, not just for the moment.

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  4. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Well, I tutor adults in reading improvement. To encourage their reading, I get books from places like freecycle and offer them.

    I also freely talk about reading. I go to public places and read. Some places, like Panera, know me and ask what good book I’m reading! 🙂

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  5. Karen @ Planet Books

    I love to give books as gifts for no reason. My most recent recipient is the daughter of a close friend of mine. She is ten and a complete bookworm. I have started to give her the Ilustrated Junior Editions of classics. So far she now has THE WIZARD OF OZ, ALICE IN WONDERLAND & THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

    I tend to talk about the book I’m reading when I’m at lunch with friends and I also put in my status on Facebook what I am reading. 343 people are seeing a new book title every week or so that way. I send books to my mom when I see something I think she would like, but unfortunately they sit for a long while on her desk or kitchen table. I get frustrated when giving any kind of gift and seeing it months later collecting dust at that person’s house. Hubby always reminds me that we have no control over what they do with the gift after we give it. I still feel a little hurt that they aren’t as excited about the gift as I was to give it. *hmph*

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  6. Biblibio

    It really depends who I’m trying to reach. I’ll try to give my younger cousins books I really liked when I was their age, offer to read books with them, and constantly let them see me with a book hanging around. I figure the simplest way to get five year olds into reading is simply by showing them books and making it really clear that books are a fun way to waste time when there’s nobody to play with.

    When I’m trying to get friends or colleagues to read, I’ll usually just mention the book a bunch of times if I think they’ll like it. Guilt-tripping can occasionally work, but usually if I mention a book enough times, they’ll catch on and will get interested. This doesn’t always work and really depends on who I’m trying to get to read, but it’s an effective enough method. My other method is least effective in the literal sense, but if it works on a person once, it works well. I’ll talk about a specific author for a week or so, mentioning interesting bits of history and trivia about this author. I’ll talk about the differences between their books, how they are in comparison to other authors… Eventually, I’ll just e-mail the Wikipedia link and a couple of interesting quotes. If it sticks, somebody is about to buy a book by the author. If it doesn’t (and it usually doesn’t), I start over.

    Very interesting topic, very interesting points. I agree about the blog mostly being read by those who already appreciate books anyways, but recently I’ve discovered that by mentioning it (and carrying around my literary notebooks), people will later check it out. So it could be you’re influencing people without even realizing it. That’s an ultimately uplifting thought.

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  7. Beth F

    Most of my friends and family are already big readers and we are constantly talking about books and sharing books and recommending books. I guess I’m lucky. My niece and I have a good book relationship and we influence each other’s reading choices all the time.

    Amy: I’ve noticed that when I offer audiobooks on Freecycle, they are snatched up within seconds!

    I’m not sure what to do to encourage nonreaders except to keep searching for that one book that will open the door. My husband (who comes from a bookish family too), says it was reading Walden when he was in 8th or 9th grade that finally turned him on to the world of books.

    I wish I had some great advice.

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  8. natalie @ book, line, and sinker

    trish, i think you reach a good deal of people with your blog and it really has ripple effects. even though it’s not “in person”, there really is a sense of community and readers could pass along your reviews and suggestions to other, non-blog reading friends and family. i do a ton of word-of-mouth at school, trying to encourage my reluctant readers (high school students) to pick up a book or two and read!
    as for the aunt lydia book club…my favorite bookstore, the northshire in manchester, vt. offers a similar program. i wish someone would enroll me in it for my birthday!!! can you think of anything better?

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  9. nikki

    That gift program sounds awesome! I wish I could find a bookstore that does that!

    I always try to make a book part of any gift I give, particularly to children. When I was pregnant, I was worrying over the fact that I needed to immediately start building my son’s library. My wonderful youngest sister went to a used bookstore and bought me a treasure-trove of books, including A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Two books my son loves to have read to him (he’s two and a half now).

    I also try to talk to people about what they’ve been reading, if nothing else, to get ideas for myself. But I also like to bring up the topic when me and another book-worm are around some friends who aren’t as bookish. Hoping that maybe our conversation will spark an interest.

    Really though, there is only so much you can do. Some people just aren’t ever going to pick up a book, and there is nothing we can do. You can encourage, but not force.

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  10. Janssen

    That Aunt Lydia program is SO cool. I wish I could afford to sign everyone I knew up for it.

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  11. Jen - Devourer of Books

    My husband wanted me to set up something like that Aunt Lydia program, but I’m not sure exactly how he thought it would work. It is really cool that there is a bookstore doing this, though.

    I try to read by example (see what I did there) in my office and at home. My coworkers, my husband, and my inlaws know that I think that Books Are Awesome and, hopefully, are influenced by that.

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  12. madeleine

    Oprah definitely had something to do with people’ reading habits. I think the Internet world with all the many book blogs is most likely a great influence. I have seen book clubs grow in neighbourhoods, something which did not exist just a few years ago. Reading is awsome, do not know what I would feel like if I wasn’t able to read anylonger………….:(((((((((((((((((((((((((((
    Great article!

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  13. Ti

    There is a gal in my book group that reads to girls that are being detained at Juvenile Hall. She reads to them, and if there is an interest, helps them learn to read. She was very hestiant to do it at first. She lives a very sheltered life and hanging out with kids like this made her nervous but she said it has been the most rewarding experience.

    I would love to do this myself. When my kids get a bit older I may try something like this. Otherwise, it’s me choosing very specific books for my friends and relatives, with the hopes of sparking something.

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  14. Heather (Belle of the Books)

    I love the idea of Aunt Lydia’s Personal Book Club! It’s like fruit of the month but with books and I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it. You can only eat so many mangos or pears in one month, but books! With books its so much harder to go wrong!

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  15. jennygirl

    Any one that knows me, knows I always have a book with me. I always encourage people to read, prob too much sometimes. I also buy my friend’s kids books instead of toys. Never had a disappointed child yet!

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  16. Rose City Reader

    Very interesting post. Like you and the others, I try to talk up the books I read, as well as just the fact that I love to read and have a book blog. And I have a “mudflap girl for the smart set” decal on my car. 🙂

    I think getting kids to enjoy reading is the best way to make adult readers — it’s a lifetime habit. So I give books to the kids I know and to book drives for kids.

    Book Passage used to be my “local” book store when I lived in San Francisco and they are always coming up with great programs like the Aunt Lydia thing. They have an incredible first edition program where, each month, they choose a first edition of a first book by an author they think is going to make it big. You have to enroll and agree to buy whatever book they choose each month, but every 12 months, you get a 13th book for free. I did it for a couple of years, until I moved back to Portland. I want Powell’s to do the same thing, but no luck so far.

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  17. zibilee

    Like you, I talk about books to anyone who will listen, sometimes I talk about them even when they won’t. I am in a book group, and the book talk there is satisfying, but I would love it if reading were as popular as some other activities like surfing the internet. I am hoping one day to be able to volunteer in an adult literacy project. I think it would be both rewarding and possibly it would win a few over to the “reading” side.

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  18. Florinda

    I LOVE the Aunt Lydia thing – like the Fruit of the Month Club, but books won’t spoil! (Oh, just noticed that Heather already made that comparison!) Thanks for letting us know about that. And you’re absolutely right about “local” being relative in California, the land of things that are “freeway close.”

    I’ve always been one for giving books to people – definitely the kids in the family, but also to people like my no-longer-a-kid son, my sister, my dad, and my husband. The tricky part is that I know all of these people are readers already, and I’m just trying to share or influence them to read something in particular. I’m not sure what works so well with reluctant readers or non-readers, though – to be honest, it’s probably because it’s hard for me to understand that mindset.

    Thanks for posing a thought-provoker! I’m including this in my “Saturday Review” links round-up this week.

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  19. Elizabeth

    This is a great post! I am a teacher of middle school geography, and I love to read. Some of the things I do to encourage reading are: I order books from Scholastic using my teacher “points” and let students choose one as a birthday gift, I do a booktalk once a week or so and tell the students about the author and other books written, if they finish their work for me early, they can take a pass to the library, which I remind them of every day, and I keep a list on the wall of books I’ve read as I finish them. Some of these don’t sound like much, but there are teachers who never take their students to the library, and parents have told me how I’ve inspired their children to read more. It is also a great way to open dialogues with the students and get to know them more.

    I also wanted to tell you that I did your handwriting meme and linked over to you. http://ebogie.blogspot.com/2009/03/hows-your-writing.html

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  20. Angela

    Ok… Oprah inspiring people to read?!? Ugh… have you read any of those Oprah picks?? She picks the crappiest books, I swear! I think she’s probably turned OFF as many readers as she has inspired! 😉

    That Aunt Lydia program sounds GREAT though. Amazon should jump on that bandwagon….

    How do I inspire others? Well.. like you, I talk about the books that I’ve read/am reading to others, and hope that they may get excited about it and/or want to borrow it. I also don’t keep many of the books I’ve read. Oh, there a few, you know, the “special” ones that I won’t part with, and don’t mind reading over and over. But most times I just note the book on my reading diary, and pass it along. Sometimes to others that I know will enjoy it, or bring it along to the “pass around” at book club meetings, or just leave it in the break room at work where someone will inevitably pick it up. There’s also a website http://www.bookcrossing.com which is a program you can sign up for and register your book, and then *leave it somewhere* for someone else to pick up, and they can log in at the website and share their opinions about the book, etc. You can track it and see how far the book goes, etc… Interesting! I’ve never done it myself, but have always wanted to.

    I read with my son every night, too. And, just as important as reading with/to him, I think it’s also important for him to see me reading, and how it’s important in my life/how I get enjoyment from reading as well. (Did that make sense? LOL)

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  21. Joanne

    This is an awesome post and topic! I’ve never considered before how I might inspire others to read, coming from a bookish family it’s just second nature to give book-related things as gifts. I do support literacy by regularly donating books to womens shelters, a yearly cheque to local organizations that buy books for the childrens hospital and I’m always stuffing money in the library donation box.
    Hmm, I volunteered at my children’s school libraries and offered reading help to kids who wanted it, along with helping out with Scholastic book fairs. Of course my kids were reading long before they started school, so I guess I inspired them. And the hubs – who never read anything outside of required school reading – I got him his first Star Wars book and he hasn’t stopped reading since!
    Oh and I am one of the lucky people who works at a bookstore – independent rather than chain – so everyday I am around people who are looking for advice on their next reads. I’ve learned a lot from my customers like if a customer likes Jeffrey Deaver they almost always enjoy David Baldacci (weird things like that.) It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to have a person come back and thank you for turning them onto a book/author they love. So far, I haven’t made any totally bad recommendations – but I know it’ll happen someday soon 😛

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  22. Mame

    I really loved this post! Thanks for posing such a postive question. I think the way I promote reading is by talking about it with passion and excitement. I have actually inspired a TV watcher to read because I was so excited about a particular novel. I think the best way to influence people about anything is to be passionate.
    I love the idea of the book of the month, personalized. Thank you for that idea! I am so going to take advantage of it for my parents. They love reading and are on a limited income and it would be such a treat for them to get a fresh book each month. I also have 2 sons in the military and that would be a great way to send them love each month while they are away.
    Thanks again and have a great week!
    🙂
    Mame

    [Reply]

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