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Every August as a new school year approaches, The Question begins, asked innocently by polite people simply at a loss for another kid-friendly conversation starter: “Are you ready for school?”

There are only two ways to answer that question, and most kids obviously opt for the equally polite answer. The truthful answer, of course, is no… I enjoyed school very much, for the most part, but who’s going to choose it over waking up at noon for potato chips and video games before settling in for a long nap?

We’re never ready for relaxation to end, we just accept that it must.

Once the new year has begun, the question is amended to “How’s school going?”, and several times over the past few years, I’ve heard a response that includes “…and they’re already making us read this book…”

As a lifelong bookworm, it stings when I hear the word “book” pronounced in italics. What could that book have possibly done to deserve that? I want to cradle it and lovingly read it until it feels better.

I know required reading can be dull. Required anything is automatically tedious, and if the story in question is one you just can’t get into, it can certainly feel like work.

But I worry, particularly these days, when the gadget is king and entertainment is required to move as swiftly as its targets’ attention spans, that all reading is starting to feel like a chore to young people. And I want to encourage kids and parents alike to do everything in their power to ensure that never becomes the case.

Books are incredible – there’s at least a case’s worth out there guaranteed to appeal to any and every individual’s interests, no matter how much they may think they “don’t enjoy” reading.

Reading is magical… and case in point, I’ll never forget the night I began the Harry Potter series. I was a teen when the first book came out and had thus been initially steered away from it by those who assumed the publisher’s original target audience – kids around 9 or 10 – was correct.

I had, at that point in my life, also gone full-on berserker into the realm of poetry and philosophy, and was enthralled with books such as “Siddhartha,” “The Idiot” and “The Brothers Karamazov” and works by Whitman, Shakespeare, and the romantic poets. I therefore put the emerging Potter series off for a year or so (a mistake I regret) before reminding myself that I was, in fact, an overgrown kid.

I started reading “The Sorcerer’s Stone” around midnight, planning to knock out a couple chapters and go to sleep. By 4 a.m., I had finished the book, was 100-percent positive I possessed dormant magical powers, and was texting my friends to see if any of them had “Chamber of Secrets” because I needed it now, as in NOW.

That’s the feeling I wish everyone had at the end of a good story. As if you’d been in it. And any time you like, the images you created in your mind as your imagination was jolted into action can take you back there. You can see the places, hear the characters’ voices.

To this day, Harry, Hermione and Ron feel like old friends. I’m still quite sure I’m the fourth Hogwarts student, something like the fifth Beatle.

And that’s only one example. There’ve been so many other books and series over the course of my life that have affected me in similar ways. “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” “His Dark Materials.” “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

I can remember the stories that moved me as a young child just starting school. I cried over “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Bridge to Terabithia.” I laughed along with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

And before that still, in my earliest memories. My mother reading “The Monster at the End of this Book” or Dr. Seuss. Teaching me to read with “Hi, Word Bird!” or “The Fox and the Hound.”

If kids welcome books into their lives young, it’s a love that will stay with them through the years, but it’s also never too late. If your child is reluctant, find a book that speaks to their interests. The fantasy stories mentioned above are always a great bet, but look outside the box and try comics or graphic novels if they’re still not connecting (I’m partial to Batman, of course).

And if you’re an adult, it’s even easier. You know what you like. Just imagine if you had a few hours to stop everything, settle into a comfortable seat, and indulge yourself in a story – what would it be about? Then search the net, and you’ll likely be shocked at how many options are out there.

The gang at the Artesia Public Library is also an invaluable resource when it comes to finding that perfect book. Just tell them what you like; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

If books have become a torture device, whatever your age, then you’ve simply been reading the wrong ones. Find yourself, then find your story… once you do, you’ll never want it to end.

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