Books Offer the Gift of Discovery, Writers Say

By Yorio, Kara | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), February 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Books Offer the Gift of Discovery, Writers Say


Yorio, Kara, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


No one understands the power of books better than a writer.

"Books enlighten, they entertain, they change lives," said best- selling author and Ridgewood resident Harlan Coben. "They open up whole new worlds."

Coben was looking around his house Friday for children's books that he planned to take -- with copies of his young adult novels "Shelter" and "Seconds Away" -- to the Ridgewood Public Library to contribute to The Big Book Drive.

"This is a no-brainer," Coben said about participating in the book-donation campaign by the Paterson library system and The Record and Herald News, with the Ridgewood and Fair Lawn public libraries, to collect books for Paterson children to take home.

Books will be distributed to children and families at the grand opening of a new Paterson library branch in April. The Northside library branch was destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Thousands of books have already been donated.

On Friday, other writers with North Jersey connections joined Coben in describing the life-changing -- even lifesaving -- force within a good book.

Poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan knows exactly how important it can be to a kid in Paterson. She grew up in the city, and her frequent trips to the library showed her there was more to life than what she saw every day in her world.

"Books saved my life," said Gillan, who started walking to the Riverside library branch on Madison Avenue when she was 7. The branch was shut down with three others in 1995.

"We didn't have books in the house and these kids don't have books in the house, so the idea of sending books home with them is a wonderful idea because it gives them something they can pick up and treasure and it's theirs."

An aunt gave Gillan a copy of "Peter Rabbit" when the future poet was bedridden with rheumatic fever at age 9.

"I treasured that book. I read that book about 900 times," said Gillan, 72, who juggles jobs as a poetry professor and director of the creative writing program at Binghamton University in New York and executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson. Her next book, "Writing Poetry to Save Your Life," comes out in April.

Books give children the gift of getting away from themselves and their lives.

"For all of the difficult parts of childhood and adolescence, books are this amazing escape portal," said novelist Ann Napolitano, who as a youngster checked out duffel bags full of books from the Ramsey library. …

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