World Book Night celebrates reading

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer April 25, 2012 02:11 pm

Looking Glass Books owner Greg Bogard opens a box of World Book Night books for Ashley Cogburn, a student  teacher at Stella Mayfield Elementary School in Elgin. Cogburn said she planned to distribute the free books, including copies of “The Hunger Games,” to students in her current class and in one she taught earlier at La Grande High School. World Book Night gave away 1 million books on April 23, the possible anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth and death. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Looking Glass Books owner Greg Bogard opens a box of World Book Night books for Ashley Cogburn, a student teacher at Stella Mayfield Elementary School in Elgin. Cogburn said she planned to distribute the free books, including copies of “The Hunger Games,” to students in her current class and in one she taught earlier at La Grande High School. World Book Night gave away 1 million books on April 23, the possible anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth and death. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer

There’s a little confusion over William Shakespeare’s date of birth. Historians like to say it was April 23, 1564, but they don’t know for sure. 

It is known the bard was baptized April 26 of that year, and it’s tidy to believe — whether it’s true or not — that he was born a few days earlier, say, on April 23.

That adds a little poetry to the poet’s life, since he died April 23, 1619.  

The matching dates are a neat little bow to wrap around the man’s life story. Or at least, they make his birthday easier to remember. Plus, April 23 becomes a fine day to begin or rekindle a love affair with books. 

Nobody, after all, personifies literature like the man from Stratford-upon-Avon.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland and all over the United States Monday, believers in the rewards of reading were out in force, stopping strangers on the streets or dropping in on schools, hospitals and nursing homes, and handing out free books to anyone who would accept them. 

The “book givers” were celebrating World Book Night, an observance that began in the United Kingdom on Shakespeare’s birthday last year and looks to be growing by leaps and bounds.

April 23, 2012 marked the first World Book Night in the United States, with the movement even finding its way to Union County.

“Its all about getting people interested in reading. One of the reasons we bought our store was to increase the community’s involvement with books,” said Greg Bogard, who with his wife Jessica owns Looking Glass Books on Adams Avenue.

Late Monday afternoon, book givers recruited by the Bogards dropped in at Looking Glass, picking up boxes of books shipped by World Book Night organizers. Armed with paperback editions of “Ender’s Game,” “Peace Like a River,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and 27 other titles selected by a panel of booksellers and librarians, they took to the streets to share the literary wealth. 

Jessica Bogard said she decided to get involved with World Book Night after reading about it on the Internet. She said she liked the idea of a “person-to-person” initiative to spread a love of reading. To get 400 books for Union County readers, all she had to do was agree to live up to the principles of World Book Night.

“I had to sign a contract saying I wouldn’t sell the books, and that I’d honor the spirit of the program,” she said.

She posted Internet notices asking for help, and wasn’t disappointed. More than a dozen local people said they’d like to take part.

They included Celine Vandervlugt, who came to the store Monday with her young son Arlo. The Vandervlugts grabbed a box and headed for the Sk8 Park, a La Grande skateboarding facility where teenagers are known to cluster. 

Another volunteer, local artist Ruth Beverly, took a share of the books to Wildflower Lodge, a La Grande assisted living facility. Ashely Cogburn, a student teacher working at  Stella Mayfield Elementary School in Elgin, said she planned to hand her books out to students and others. 

Cogburn said she especially liked it that “The Hunger Games,” a book that’s been made into a movie enormously popular with young people, was on the World Book Night list.

“I thought, if I can get ‘The Hunger Games,’ the kids will really be excited,” she said.

Cogburn said she previously taught a high school class in La Grande, and hoped to give books to some of those students, too.

“I have a ton of friends who are not the biggest readers. Through good books I can inspire them,” she said.

The Looking Glass recruits were small cogs in a huge transoceanic effort to give away a million books on April 23. 

Jessica Bogard said she is pleased  her business got to play a part in the event.

“We only had four books left over,” she said Tuesday. “It was a great experience and everybody had fun. We’ll definitely do it again next year.”