Column: The secret superpower of reading

library card catalog

There is still magic in this world – books are a doorway into new experiences within the mind. Go back in time, explore new cultures, and learn. Fight with King Arthur, visit the Roman forum, rocket into the future – reading transcends space and time. There are worlds to explore, to imagine, to ignite, and stories to inspire, to explain, or even just to entertain.

My most prized possession growing up was my own library card. There were no computer searches then. Rows and rows of card catalog drawers lined the wall. There was an odd smell in the room of polished oak furniture, musty index cards – one for each book, and the librarian’s perfume.

However, it was much more exciting to wander the aisles and aisles of books. Books with strange titles, books with pictures, art books and of course the Nancy Drew series. Sigh, Nancy Drew was our much simpler version of the Harry Potter series back then.

Living in a horse town, the Black Stallion series was irresistible. Solve a mystery, understand relationships, visit new places, and immerse yourself into a different world.

Now PBS has a new series The Great American Read with author clips and descriptive blurbs. PBS is challenging us to re-open the door to the superpower of reading.

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

The television series features entertaining and informative documentary segments, with compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans and book lovers across the country. It is comprised of a two-hour launch episode in which the list of 100 books is revealed, five one-hour theme episodes that examine concepts common to groups of books on the list, and a finale, in which the results are announced of a nationwide vote to choose America’s best-loved book.

The series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.