Manistee County residents love their books

“We laugh a lot when we hear people say, ‘No one reads anymore,’ and we go, ‘Oh really, are we selling all these books to imaginary people? “”

This quote came from Marian Jarvinen, a member of the Friends of Manistee County Library, when she gave me details about the group’s upcoming annual used book sale during the Manistee National Forest Festival. Being an avid reader and annual visitor to their sale myself, I couldn’t agree with Marian more.

If you doubt my and Marian’s views on this subject, then I formally invite you to drop by their book sale which returns July 1 and 2 under the tents in the parking lot behind the main library branch of the Manistee County at 95 Maple Street in Manistee and join the hundreds of others who will be there to prove it. The two-day sale runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

You’ll also discover something that many of us have personally known for years: Manistee County has a huge following of book lovers. In this age where technology is being pushed down our throats at every turn, the vast majority of people still like to relax and unwind with a good book.

What makes many of us book lovers smile is to see children, young adults, middle-aged and elderly people continue to read books regularly and enjoy every minute of it.

But let’s face the facts and come back to that opening line of this column referring to the strong love of reading books that exists in Manistee County.

Need proof? Well, how about the fact that this area actively supports two wonderful bookstores in the city center: Happy Owl Bookstore and Anne’s Book store. Add to that the fact that in this county we have branch libraries in Onekama, Bear Lake (Keddie-Norconk), Arcadia, Kaleva and Wellston all of which are widely used by the public.

If that doesn’t say it all about the county’s love of reading books, then I don’t know.

However, no matter what type of activity you are talking about, the need to maintain it over time comes from the fact that young people remain interested in reading books. What helps in this area is that Manistee County schools do a great job of promoting reading throughout the school year, including a big celebration in March for Reading Month.

One of the reasons they do this is because it is well proven that children will struggle in all subjects in school without strong reading skills. But it also gives these kids an activity they can enjoy for a lifetime, and to me, that’s pretty neat.

Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate, and one of the best ways to succeed in this world, gain knowledge, and get pure pleasure is to read a book. So never stop reading, and if you’re not currently, then why not?

The Friends Group also helps in these areas, as funds from their annual sale go directly back into library programs. They help purchase new books, program materials, and simply support library programs to keep reading relevant in people’s lives.

That, my friends, is a good use of fundraising money. Last year, the group of friends donated $7,000 to the children’s summer reading program which is being offered in all branches this year.

It’s also literally putting their money where their mouth is in promoting reading. So job well done Friends of the Manistee County Library.

These youngsters are like a sponge soaking up everything during a school year, but any teacher will tell you that during summer break some of these young minds tend to “dry up”. Summer reading programs of this nature help keep those sponges absorbing throughout the summer, and it will only help them do better when they return to school in the fall.

This year, the group of friends also donated funds to purchase books for the Winter Storytime program, and books were distributed to children at this storytime. When children receive their own books, it always inspires them to read more.

Their selection is so good this year that Jarvinen said if people wanted to help out with moving boxes to organize things on sale days, the group would welcome more volunteers. Contact Jarvinen at 231-723-5063.

But don’t limit your book purchases to sale with friends, because it’s important to continue supporting our fantastic bookstores and businesses that sell them throughout the year. They need our support to keep their businesses strong and read in the public eye 12 months a year.

If you look around you will see people reading more than ever with an e-reader or a regular book. There are many hot summer nights. I personally sit on my porch reading a book and see several of my neighbors doing the same. So turn off the computer or television and let your imagination run wild with a good book.

As a longtime resident, I’ve witnessed over the years how people have tried to tag Manistee with some sort of nickname such as “the ‘Stee” or past ones like “Salt City”, “Victorian Port City” and even “Capital Coho.

Who knows, if all our passions for reading remain strong, maybe we will then be known as “The Book Lovers City”? Even if it never happens, make sure you never stop reading and keep doing it long after I see you again on Thursday.

Ken Grabowski is the retired deputy editor of the Manistee News Advocate who spent 36 years in the newspaper business.

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