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One for the books

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The joy of Community Reading Day

BANGOR Living as we do in an age of omnipresent technology, it can be easy to forget that the children of today are growing up in a very different world than those of us who were kids even a few short years ago.

One of the widely reported side effects of this tech ubiquity is a downturn in good old-fashioned reading. These youngsters have screens everywhere, so why would they bother with the turning of pages. I myself was a believer in the erosion of appreciation for the printed word.

Happily, thanks to the enthusiasm of one particular group of kids, I feel confident in saying that the reports of reading's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I was recently invited along with a number of other local luminaries to participate in a Community Reading Day at the Vine Street School in Bangor. Basically, each of us was assigned to a classroom, where we went and spent some time reading to the students. We were offered the option of having a book selected for us or else bring our own.

I opted to bring my own. I showed up at Ms. Hanscom's second-grade classroom with a pair of very different books in hand. There was a personal favorite of mine called 'That Pesky Toaster,' a very weird book written and illustrated by Ben Hillman, formerly of MTV's late, great 'Liquid Television.' The other was an exquisitely-illustrated favorite of my wife's called 'The Egg' by M.P. Robertson.

The plan was to read one book, but when it became clear that I had time, I went ahead and shared them both. Each had their own personal favorite, but they seemed to have a good time throughout. And when I had a chance to talk to them a little bit about writing as well as reading they were working on opinion writing well, that was just icing on the cake. They asked wonderful questions and shared their own likes and dislikes, expressing an admirable degree of inquisitive curiosity.

(I should note that while I have been taking to the stage for more than half my life, I don't know that I have ever been in front of a more appreciative audience. Sure, there might have been a squirm or a fidget here and there and I definitely lost them for a second when the fire truck rolled into the parking lot but overall, they devoted their attention to me in a very real and respectful way. Just a great bunch of kids; I have no doubt that my fellow readers had much the same experience.)

It's such a small thing, taking an hour out of your day to sit down and read a couple of books to a group of kids. And yetit didn't feel small. There's something meaningful in having the opportunity to share a love of literature with a generation whose affections for such things are still developing. Every person who took that time to visit Vine Street that day did something significant for those kids, showing them that reading is something that can be enjoyed not just during your school days, but for the entirety of your life.

I was offered plenty of genuine thank-yous as I made my exit; these kids were polite and appreciative and extremely nice. However, there's no doubt in my mind that ultimately, I am the one who should be thanking them.

So thank you to Ms. Hanscom's class. I'm honored that you welcomed me into your world and shared that time with me. I hope our paths cross again somewhere down the road. Good luckand keep reading.

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