Phil Lusk of Agnew is among the more than 50 “givers” to offer free books at local shelters

Phil Lusk of Agnew is among the more than 50 “givers” to offer free books at local shelters

They’re sharing a few good (free) books

PORT ANGELES — They’re called “givers,” and they’re part of an international effort to hand out a half-million books free of charge, from Peace Like a River to The Hunger Games.

This project is called World Book Night, and it’s today: the UNESCO Day of the Book, as well as William Shakespeare’s birthday.

World Book Night began last year in the United Kingdom.

This spring, the free book event expands to the United States — to 6,000 cities, including Port Angeles and Forks — thanks to sponsors like the American Library and American Booksellers associations, United Parcel Service and 15 printers and paper companies.

The volunteer givers are the ones who will do the legwork, and they come from many walks of life.

Some 52 local residents seized the opportunity in February, when Port Book and News and Odyssey Books of Port Angeles put out word of World Book Night.

They’re all people who believe in the power of a good book to plant a seed, even change a life: Clallam County planning biologist Cathy Lear, Port Angeles city power resources manager Phil Lusk, Forks Community Food Bank director Pat Soderlind, Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts director Dan Maguire and First Step Family Support Center Nita Lynn were a few of the givers who came to Port Book last week to pick up their boxes of 20 paperbacks apiece.

Each had selected a title from the World Book Night list of 30 options and chose a place or two to do the giving.

The givers share a mission: to seek out people who aren’t really readers — yet — and introduce them to a book the giver believes in.

For Schromen that’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie’s tale of a teenager on the Spokane Reservation.

Schromen, a teacher at Dry Creek Elementary School, plans on handing out her copies on the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation.

Lear plans to bring I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s coming-of-age classic, to The Answer for Youth, Port Angeles’ nonprofit center for homeless and at-risk teens and young adults.

When Lear asked Susan Hillgren, director of TAFY and her sister-in-law, if the people at the center would be interested at all, Hillgren said yes, absolutely.

“They would love to just have a book of their own, one they could write their name in,” Hillgren said.

Other givers plan to seek out recipients at places including the Laurel Lanes bowling alley in Port Angeles, the YMCA, the Sequim Community School’s alternative high school, Clallam County Juvenile Services and First Step Family Support Center.

For Soderlind, who also chose I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, giving out free books is not a new thing.

“I’m excited,” said Soderlind, who gathers donated books at the Forks food bank and hands them out one at a time. “I find it easy. I just say, ‘If I give this to you, tell me you’ll read it.’ If they say, ‘Well . . .’ I say, ‘Tell me you’ll read it, as a favor to me.’”

This works, Soderlind said, because she lives in Forks, a town where everybody knows just about everybody.

Soderlind has loved to dive inside a good book’s pages ever since she was a girl growing up in Omaha, Neb.

Reading “was my safety net,” she said.

All of those Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, she added, “allowed me to go places I couldn’t

otherwise go.”

Alan and Cindy Turner, owners of Port Book and News, signed up to be givers, too.

Alan plans to take his choice, the huge best-seller The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, to the Dream Center for teens and young adults in Port Angeles.

“Will people look at me like I’m crazy? Of course. People look at us like we’re crazy, opening a bookstore in this town,” he joked.

But seriously, Alan said, he is inspired by the way Clallam County givers are handing out more than 1,000 books on World Book Night.

“It would be great,” he added, “to give away twice as many or three times as many next year.”

For more on today’s event, visit www.World

BookNight.org or phone Port Book and News at 360-452-6367 or Odyssey Books at 360-457-1045.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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