My parents were avid readers and passed that habit on to me. It is one of the best of the many positive habits they taught me. The book shelves in my bedroom were filed with complete sets of The Hardy Boys Mysteries and the adventures of The Bobsy Twins. I wish that my kids and grandkids had the same passion for reading that I have, but in today’s visual and digital world, reading, particularly for pleasure, is fighting an uphill battle.
Although I am a vociferous reader, I am not your typical reader. I go through four or so books a month. I primarily read for pleasure and entertainment. I am clearly in the minority when it comes to what I think makes a book great. I never cease to be amazed that even though the literature teachers I had in high school and college, did everything they possibly could do to destroy my love of reading, they failed. I was forced to read numerous books because they were supposed classics when in actuality they were not the least bit interesting, entertaining nor did they really teach me anything. Of all the books I was forced to read, I can count on one hand, the number that I found to be worth the time and effort. In my opinion, none of the classics can come close to holding my interest like the latest from David Baldacci, John Grisham or Stephen King. On the non-fiction side, I like to learn about society so books Like Tipping Point from Malcom Gladwell, Dopesick by Beth Macy or Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman are my kind of books. I love “twofers” which are both entertaining fiction with lots of facts packed in. You can’t read one of Steve Berry’s books without learning a lot of history. Reading one of Michael Crichton’s books makes you a mini-expert in whatever branch of science he is exploring. To me a good read is a book that grabs my attention at the beginning, never loses it and causes me to stay up way past my bedtime in order to finish it. With apologies to all my former teachers, none of the books they made me read, ever did this.
My involvement with the Amelia Island Book Festival started a number of years ago when I was approached about being a sponsor. I found out that the festival featured authors that were the type I enjoyed. I can honestly say if it had been about promoting “literary classics” I would not have been interested. However, I learned that through the Authors in School program, they were promoting reading that kids would think of as fun and enjoyable. They clearly had the right idea. If you want kids to become lifetime readers make it an enjoyable experience and not a forced one. I said yes.
When the festival drew near, I was asked several times to go to a school for delivery of the books as a representative of the sponsors. They knew what they were doing. Finally I said yes. Early one morning, I went to Yulee Elementary School to distribute books by R. L. Stein. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the kids as they received their books. They were literally vibrating with excitement. They knew that in a few days they would be visited by Stein and for most of them it would be an experience they would never forget. I was hooked and have participated in the book distribution ever since.
Not too long after the festival had concluded, I was asked if I would consider joining the festival board. Without hesitation, I said yes. Since then it has been my privilege to support the festival as both a sponsor and a director. I have benefited from my involvement far more than the festival has benefited from me. I have met some fascinating people, made great friends and have the privilege of seeing the kids faces every year when we deliver the books. Along with the Concours de Elegance and the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, the Amelia Island Book Festival is a world class event that enhances every aspect of our community and I feel privileged to be a part of it.
As with the entire community, 2020 has been a tough year for the festival. Caution led us to cancel the 2021 festival as we have known it. It was disappointing as we had built up a lot of momentum over the past several years as we had increasingly successful programs. As a board, we worry a lot about being hit by the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome, so we are staying active on social media and publishing stories on our blog regularly. We will be holding the Writing Contest and Scholarship Program, as well as other activities in 2021. Please keep our mission in mind and follow our website, blog, and social media to see how we are adapting this year. Your ongoing support is needed and appreciated by the kids in Nassau Country. We will be back in full force soon, better than ever!