The idea behind World Book Night is to get books in the hands of people who don’t read much, or at all, or who don’t have the resources to buy books.
When I applied to be a World Book Night giver, I requested books that are appropriate for young people, because frankly, I consider all youth to be at-risk youth. I was delighted to be chosen to give away Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.
I made prior arrangements to give half of my books to a youth program whose members “love to read,” but don’t necessarily have access to new books. The second half, I really wanted to share with kids who didn’t consider themselves readers. I drove down a street block usually crowded with juvenile delinquents. I’m not being bigoted here; I know for a fact that the regulars on these street corners have served time. Sadly, I didn’t see any of them at 6 pm on this Tuesday evening, so I headed for the skate park.
The House on Mango Street is appropriate for both genders, of course, but because the main character is a young girl, I approached three pierced skater girls.
“Do you want a free book?”
Skater Girl 1 shook her head. Why would anyone turn down a free book?
“It’s not religious or anything,” I offered, waving the brightly colored paperback in her face.
She shook her head again. I said, “You really have no interest in reading this book? It’s really good.”
Skater Girl 2 said somewhat snottily, “I don’t think this is the place to try to sell books.”
Exactly why I chose it. “I’m not selling them. They’re free.”
With an “Oh, in that case” shrug, Skater Girls 2 and 3 took books, and I guess peer pressure got the better of Skater Girl 1, because she took one too.
Jackpot, I thought, wondering whether I’d find the books later, lying at the bottom of the ramp with skateboard tracks across their covers. How can I avoid being like the cop who bought that homeless guy a pair of boots only to find the homeless guy barefoot again the next day?
I crossed the skate park, on my way to another group that included young women when a Skater Dude saw my cardboard box. “Is that ice cream?”
“No, it’s better. Free books!”
I gave copies to him and two other nearby dudes and overheard one say, “Since when do you read books?”
Yes, I was definitely in the right place.