This summer, my family did our part in trying to make the world more literate by building a Little Free Library. You can read about our “library adventures” at geekmom.com/2013/08/free-library-adventure/.
In the meantime, here are some of favorite reading events for book and comic lovers to relish, along with a couple of changes to just doodle:
Some Favorite Reading Events
Free Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest: We geek parents know Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, like we know our kids’ birthdays. This is the day that participating comic book sellers offer selected free comics for anyone and everyone of all ages. Since the first Free Comic Book Day in 2002, thousands of shops worldwide have joined in on the fun, exposing more and more people to the literary and visual art amalgam of the comic book.
Its popularity has spawned a companion fall event, Halloween ComicFest, held in late October. In addition to free comics, most with a dark or spooky edge, it’s also one of the best online costume and cosplay contests for both youth and adults, which they humbly call The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever. I’m not too proud to admit that my own daughter came a close second to winning her age category for her original Lord of the Rings: War in the North video game-inspired costume of warrior elf, Andriel. This Halloween event isn’t quite as big as its spring counterpart, but if the rising appeal of both comics and Halloween continues, it may soon well be.
All Hallows Read: This has been Halloween tradition since 2010, with some pretty big names in eerie literature wholeheartedly endorsing it, most notably Neil Gaiman, who started it all on his blog by asking followers to give each other scary books.
“Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle,” Gaiman proposed. “Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy…Give someone a scary book for Halloween. Make their flesh creep…”
That was all there was to that, and All Hallows Read continues. People can hand out scary age-appropriate books (new or second-hand) as trick-or-treat and carnival prizes or gifts, or just leave them lying around public areas. The official site often includes printable All Hallows Read labels, encouraging people to “Take This Book.” There is no easier way to share books and comics than just leaving them in high-traffic areas where people can find them. I inadvertently do this year-round, and now I have a perfectly sound excuse.
World Book Day: This largely European-based reading awareness event is known in some countries as International Day of the Book or World Book and Copyright Day. It was created in 1995 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to promote reading and publishing. Celebrations and observances are held on or around April 23 to mark the date both celebrated writers Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died. Different countries mark this occasion in their own way, including giving reading vouchers to school-aged youth as they do in the United Kingdom.
Similar international celebrations, with many in the United States, include World Book Night, also on April 23; International Children’s Book Day, observed on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday in early April; and El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Children/Day of the Books). The later, El día de los niños, was born in Mexico, and is a popular community event in several United States/Mexico border cities, including my hometown of El Paso, Texas. This day features community celebrations of family marked with book giveaways and entertainment.
Star Wars Reads Day: Has there actually been a day created promoting both reading and Star Wars? Yes, there has! Be still my heart. This is one of the newer reading adventures for families, as Lucasfilm and their many publishing partners created it in 2012 for the sole purpose of celebrating reading. Held the first Saturday in October, the inaugural event was immediately embraced by more than 1,200 bookstores, schools, and libraries.
Just how and where the event is celebrated is up to the hosting venue, and Lucasfilm provides downloadable trivia kits, crafts, and activity suggestions online. Many venues opt for activities like storytelling, book and prize giveaways and, of course, cosplay…it is Star Wars, after all. What’s the fun without some 501st Legion members helping out?
Read Across America: This NEA (National Education Association) project is probably the most well-known in American schools and is especially popular among students and teachers. Held on the school day closest to Dr. Seuss’s birthday—March 2—the party encourages reading and storytelling events, some with celebrity readers who might don a jaunty red and white striped hat in celebration of Seuss’s iconic literary cat.
Through Read Across America, NEA also works closely with the group First Book, which has distributed more than 100 million books to children in need in more than 50,000 schools and programs. That is a bunch of books and a bunch of happy young readers. What could be better?
Doodling. Everyone has done it at least once.
I doodle constantly. I scribble cobwebs and steampunk tentacles on the edge of cocktail napkins. I draw floating feathers and concentric Burton curls on the borders of my notebooks when a phone interviewee gets too chatty. I’ve graced the note cards at Five Guys Burgers with a TARDIS and killer zombie bunnies, and I continually fight the urge to take a Sharpie to the toe of my Chucks.
Unlike painstakingly detailed paintings, or over-worked digital art, the doodle is drawing at its purist form; straight from the head to the tip of the fingers to the page. Plus, anyone can do it.
No matter how elaborate or simple, big or small, a doodle is a great equalizer in the world of illustration. Set something to write with and something to write on in front of anyone and, given enough time, most are going to jot something down; be it random lines, decorative ways of dressing up their own or someone else’s name, random curly borders on the edge, happy faces, or X-Wings.
But, why doodle?
According to professional graphologist (AKA handwriting analyst) Ruth Rostron’s essay on doodling, from the National Doodle Day site: doodling relieves boredom, eases stress and frustrations, and acts as a “safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.”
Doodling has even been put to good use in nationwide charitable events in both the United States and United Kingdom. The UK’s National Doodle Day has helped raise more than £250,000 for people with epilepsy in its 10 years of existence. Held in early spring, the event offers doodle contests for all ages as well as auctions featuring works of celebrity “artists.” Similarly, the Neurofibromatosis Network collects celebrity doodles year-round for its annual Doodle 4 NF event each May.
Not only have both of these events been successful fundraisers for their causes, they’ve showcased hidden talents of many actors, musicians, authors, and comedians, as well as the not-so-hidden abilities of both amateur and professional artists. Some of these celebrity doodlers have included Sir Ian McKellen, Matt Lucas, James Nesbitt, and Jeremy Bulloch for 2013’s National Doodle Day. John Barrowman, Nathan Fillion, Tom Kane, Melissa Rauch, Brent Spiner, Burt Ward, and Stan Lee have already contributed their doodles for 2014’s Doodle 4 NF. Some of these illustrations are rather impressive, and others, well, are a great way for others to feel secure in their own artistic ability.
As far as what we doodle, Rostron indicated these seemingly aimless images could act as “fragments of a map” to whatever is on one’s mind.
“When you are on automatic pilot and only half attending to what you are doing, you may find yourself thinking of something that has been at the back of your mind. Underlying preoccupations surface and, before you know it, take shape as doodles,” she writes. “Doodling maps the wandering of your mind as you plan a new venture, worry about money, or dream of a lover or holiday. At an unconscious level this seemingly aimless pastime may actually be helping people sort out their problems.”
Different personality types may doodle in different styles. Emotional types like rounded, fluffier shapes like clouds, hearts, happy faces or flowers. Practical people draw images with straight lines or flat surfaces. Determined people draw more “pointy” images like arrows, zigzags, planes, or mountains. No matter the subject, Roston said everything in a doodle relates in some way to the person who has drawn it.
Whether for charity, stress relief, or just an outlet for artistic silliness; doodling is not only something I do myself, but encourage my own children to do as well. I’ve had to stuff many a greasy paper restaurant place mat bearing crayon masterpieces in my purse as proof of this. I’ve looked back on some of my quickly penned images and learned quite a bit about myself. This is not always a good thing, I’ve discovered, but always insightful.
I encourage it in you as well. That is, if you aren’t already doing it, and I have a pretty good feeling many of you are.