Read On!

A pair of local bibliophiles are invoking the "hortatory subjunctive" -- a grammatical term for speech used to urge others to join in a specific action. This sermonic style typically opens with a preacher's "Let us..." and ends with a skyscraper-high exclamation mark. Pushy, perhaps, but effective at driving home a point.

That's one reason author Claudia Cangilla McAdam and former college English instructor Sally Kurtzman decided to name their non-profit literary advocacy organization Read, Colorado! The idea sprouted after the women gathered earlier this year to plan their booklovers' tribute to Colorado authors. Faced with a serious decline in reading and a swift surge in technology, they decided that a proactive approach (Hey, you! Read, or else!) was crucial if books were to remain a vital part of people's lives.

"Too many of us get sucked into this TV/ video, sit-on-your-duff world," McAdam says.

Aside from the frequent sight of tubby kids glued to Game Boys, other troubling signs of dumbing down have appeared in American culture. In June, the National Endowment for the Arts released a survey reporting that for the first time in modern history, less than half of the adult American population reads literature -- novels, short stories, plays or poetry. More ominous was the finding that, while the decline in serious reading was observed across the board, the sharpest drop was among the youngest age groups.

But amid the gloomy trends resides a flicker of hope: According to the survey, reading is most popular among residents of the Western states. That fact, coupled with the information that there are about 1,000 Colorado authors contributing to the flow of approximately 100,000 books published each year, spurred the two crusaders on. McAdam and Kurtzman decided to launch an event to honor Centennial state scribes, and what started in concept as a book fair has now turned into Colorado Authors Day. The inaugural, set to roll out Saturday, November 6, at Invesco Field, is expected to attract over 250 authors.

The wordy Woodstock has a long list of homegrown heavies: photographer John Fielder; Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel; Bruce Cameron, the anti-metrosexual clairvoyant behind How to Remodel a Man; Kent Haruf, whose bestseller Plainsong was turned into a Hallmark film; and Julie Anne Peters, whose novel Luna, about a transgender teen's struggle for acceptance, was a 2004 National Book Award Finalist. Also appearing will be the faces and names behind titles such as Funerals and Fly Fishing, The Granny Mystique, Views From Jackass Hill, Five Minute Healer, My Secret Life With a Sex Addict, Pets Living With Cancer, The Raven Who Spoke With God, and Woo Woo Chronicles. Celebrity readers, including Mayor John Hickenlooper, city librarian Rick Ashton, Rocky Mountain News book editor Patti Thorn, meteorologist Ed Greene and former Broncos Rich Karlis, Karl Mecklenburg and Steve Sewell, will give voice to the words of others. And for those seeking to break into the book game, author panels will cover everything from "Unraveling the Mystery of Mystery Writing" to "Cooking Up a Book: The Art of Food Writing."

Before the orange-and-blue crowds show up for Sunday's game at Invesco Field, bookworms will occupy 25,000 square feet in the West Club Lounge of the stadium, an unlikely venue where the unforgotten wordsmiths will sell and sign their books.

And if Read, Colorado! backers are successful in their clarion calls to thumb a tome, not only could video games gather dust and Invesco lie dormant, but ski slopes could empty out and bike paths turn quiet.

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Christopher Benson

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