New Orleans native Jennette Ginsburg reads ‘The Hula Hoopin’ Queen,’ by Thelma Lynn Godin, during her performance at the Main Branch of the Livingston Parish Library on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

We’ve come to the close of another summer, a season when librarians and booksellers often promote reading for fun. But on Tuesday, the good folks at Louisiana Public Broadcasting will host a public event celebrating the power of reading throughout the year. I’ll be there, and I hope you will, too.

On Aug. 14, LPB is taping an episode of its “Louisiana Public Square” series devoted to the value of lifelong reading. Doors for the taping of the panel discussion open at 5:30 p.m. at Baton Rouge Community College’s Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion, with refreshments and fellowship for audience members until the hour-long program begins at 7. As part of the pre-show festivities, attendees can tape their own “My Favorite Book” testimonials for later broadcast.

The event is free, but if you plan to come, please RSVP at lpb.org/powerofreading. The pavilion is at 201 Community College Drive in Baton Rouge.

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Folks who can’t make the taping can catch the show when it’s broadcast on LPB and WLAE in New Orleans at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22. The episode will also be available online after broadcast at lpb.org/publicsquare.

Panelists for the reading discussion include Linda-Marie Barrett, of the Southern Independent Booksellers Association; Louisiana State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton; Miranda Restovic, of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities; and Gary Robertson, of Adult Literacy Advocates.

LPB is hosting the discussion to complement “The Great American Read,” a new PBS series in which viewers vote to select America’s favorite novel. 

I’ll be on Tuesday’s panel, too, although I’m not an expert on reading. I’m just a newspaperman who depends on people who read to make my living.

Reading doesn’t make everyone wise and virtuous, although I’ve noticed in dealing with readers every day, that people who read tend to be more open-minded than most. Sustained reading, which obligates you to sit quietly in the presence of another voice for a while, is a basic act of tolerance, something we need more than ever these days.

So I’m grateful that LPB is promoting the power of reading through its platform. The thought of a TV show championing books might have surprised members of my grandparents’ generation. As the medium gained ground in the 1950s, many observers feared that television would kill reading. But TV adaptations of great books have helped grow new audiences for the classics. After a documentary version of a small book I’d written about John James Audubon aired on public TV, the extra attention brought me new readers, too.

The internet was also supposed to be the death of books, but amazon.com, one of the first online businesses, has helped give readers more options.

Maybe the biggest threat to reading is the persistent idea that it’s a relic on the verge of replacement by the Next Big Thing. But there’s still a hunger for what the written word can give. Thanks to LPB for reminding us.


Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.