FINDLAY - Once upon a time, people in cities across the country picked up a good book to read, met in coffee shops and libraries to discuss it, and never repeated the experiment again.
Toledo tried it in 2001 when then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner asked Toledoans to read Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, but no further attempts have been made. Other area cities tried it and found the idea worth repeating each spring.
Bowling Green and Findlay just launched their third annual community reading efforts, asking residents to read a particular book that has themes related to the community then take part in discussion groups and events related to the story.
Bowling Green has chosen W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, while Findlay residents are taking up a book Bowling Green read in 2003, Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys. It tells the story of a young man growing up in a West Virginia coal town who, fearing Russian dominance in the space race, sets out to build rockets with his friends. The book was the basis for the 1999 movie October Sky.
"We are finding the community is just embracing it this year," said Marty Rothey, program officer at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, which sponsors the community read. "It's exciting to see how it's really taken root."
Findlay has hosted the author of its book selection each year - first with Mr. Albom and last year with Andy Andrews, who wrote The Traveler's Gift.
For this year's selection, author Hickam will speak in Findlay at 2 p.m. April 2 at Central Auditorium. Tickets, which are $5, are available at the Arts Partnership Box Office, and anyone can attend, Ms. Rothey said.
"We're hoping people from Bowling Green and Tiffin will come out to see the author," she said.
Tiffin residents were asked to read Rocket Boys back in 2002, but after two subsequent community reads, the city is taking this year off, said Pat Hillmer, director of the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.
"We just felt that this year we had so much else going on, and we did have trouble coming up with the right book, which sounds very dim," she said. "Finding a book that would appeal to a broad spectrum is not easy. You tend to find communities reading the same books."
Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn, who has been involved with the community reading project from the beginning, agreed, saying Bowling Green has looked for books that are relevant to the area and appropriate for ages ranging from junior high to senior citizens. So far, it's worked.
"We've had excitement each of the years we've done it," Mayor Quinn said. "This town is still based in education, and reading is a fundamental part of that. I think that's one of the reasons it's taken off."
Shoeless Joe, a story about an Iowa farmer who hears voices that urge him to build a ballpark, was chosen, Mr. Quinn said, because of Bowling Green's agricultural roots and the universal theme of following your dreams.
A variety of events are planned around each city's book selection.
In Bowling Green, the focus is on baseball. The Bowling Green State University baseball team will talk baseball with residents at the Wood County Senior Center at 4 p.m. April 11.
John Chalberg will present a one-man show titled, "An Evening with Brooklyn Dodgers' General Manager Branch Rickey," at 7 p.m. April 19 at the Wood County District Public Library, and the Wood County Infirmary Inmates will take on the Ohio Village Muffins in a vintage baseball game at 1 p.m. April 24 at Wintergarden Park.
Field of Dreams, the movie inspired by Shoeless Joe, will play at the Cla-Zel Theatre at 2 p.m. April 9.
In addition to the author's appearance in Findlay, events there include a family roller skating night at Findlay Skate Saturday afternoon in which anyone dressed in 1950s attire will get a $1 off admission.
A planetarium show and art exhibit on rockets and space also is scheduled at 1 and 2:15 p.m. at the University of Findlay Planetarium and the Mazza Museum of art from children's books.
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