Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The pot of gold at the end of the RAINBOW

I love my job. I am grateful each and every day to be able to say that and to do what I do. I am passionate about the work and I have the great fortune to work with and meet the most wonderful people. Today I met with four extraordinary people who, I have every confidence, will change the game when it comes to getting good  books into the hands of kids who will get lost in them (in the best possible way). Cultivating a lifelong love of reading begins with empowering kids to choose the books that interest and excite them and this impressive group is well on its way to bringing kids and books together in new and different ways. They are the powerhouse team of Mark Wolfe, Asra Rasheed, Sangita Patel and ... wait for it ... LeVar Burton. They are each as delightful as they are impressive. LeVar Burton, known for his indelibly memorable roles like Kunta Kinte in Roots and Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is perhaps most beloved for his 26-year run as the host of Reading Rainbow, the award-winning PBS series that brought books to life. Each episode centered on a theme from a book or other children's literature which was explored through a number of segments or stories. The show also provided book recommendations that kids could look for when they'd go to the library. It is the third-longest running children's series in PBS history, after Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street. The show was taken off the air in 2009 and the children's book loving world mourned its demise. The void has not been filled but after today's meeting, I suspect that it will soon. At the helm are 4 passionate and dedicated people who recognize the importance of letting kids know what's available to them and giving them the power to make choices. More and more, I can't shake the feeling that we have entered a very exciting era for children's books.

In honor of LeVar Burton, who is truly as charming and wonderful in person as you could possibly imagine, today's book recommendations are made in celebration of Kunta and Geordi. In recognition of Kunta, and particularly compelling during Black History Month, is David Adler's Frederick Douglass: A Noble Life. Douglass fled to freedom in 1838 and subsequently became one of America's most celebrated abolitionists, orators, and passionate champions of freedom. Quotations attributed to him are legion but, in the spirit of this blog, consider this one: "Once you learn to read, you will forever be free."  And then remember that he was a fugutive slave with no formal education - just innate brilliance and the will to survive, succeed and fight injustice.

Switching gears a little, Geordi La Forge, inspires two book choices. The first is David Bristow's Sky Sailors.  This book is full of stories of balloon flights, the first kind of human flight allowing man to explore the sky. The stories of aeronauts, the precursor to pilots and astronauts, are fascinating and thrilling.

Finally, if you ever watched Star Trek, any generation, you must have developed an appreciation for alien life forms. Should you be planning any of your own space travel, you can brush up on your knowledge of those creatures by studying Alienology: The Complete Book of Extraterrestrials by Professor Allen Gray. This book will teach you how to identify aliens who have already infiltrated human society and so much more. My favorite part of this book is a foldout page with pictures of different alien species. Some are terrifying but some are downright adorable!

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