By Tish Wells, McClatchy Newspapers –
Don’t be surprised if you see Imperial Stormtroopers, Jedi, Rebels or various configurations of R2-D2s on the streets of America on Saturday. They will be enjoying “Star Wars Reads Day” at your local libraries, schools, independent bookstores, Barnes & Nobles and Books-A-Million.
A literacy initiative by Lucasfilm, and publishing houses Random House, Dark Horse Comics, DK, Del Rey, Abrams, Scholastic, and Workman, “Star Wars Reads Day” encourages reading, not only “Star Wars,” but books in general.
“It’s what will get kids reading material they wouldn’t otherwise — or reading types of books that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Pablo Hidalgo, author of the new “‘Star Wars’: The Essential Reader’s Companion.”
He remembers reading the original 1977 novelization of “Star Wars” where Darth Vader was described as having a ‘lethal capriciousness” and asking his parents what it meant, since, “As a kid I wouldn’t know what ‘capriciousness’ meant. But, because that word was so associated with Darth Vader, I thought it was important to find out what that meant.”
“I think a lot of people…came to reading through ‘Star Wars’ somehow, and that’s what we’re really trying to encourage,” says Greg Kubie of Random House publicity. “‘Star Wars’ is a great way to introduce them to reading in general.”
The span of participation in “Star Wars Reads Day” stretches from Anchorage to Miami. Some bookstores or libraries will offer book raffles, trivia (one assumes “Star Wars”) and prizes. NBC’s “Today Show” Charitable Foundation has signed on distribute donated books through its affiliates nationwide.
“Star Wars” has spread from the films to comics, novels, novelizations, graphic novels, trading cards and beginning-reader books. According to Random House, there are more than 120 million books in print.
Besides the 501st Legion of Imperial Stormtroopers, book authors such as Troy Denning, Christie Golden, Aaron Allston and more will be signing their work. Some lucky stores will have members of the R2-D2 Builders Club out with their ‘droids. Others will be greeted by the costuming groups Rebel Legion or Mandalorian Mercs.
Hidalgo expects to see many fans at his signing in California. “They are a very vocal community. Not shy about their opinions … you get instant reaction.”
As for child readers, “For a ‘Star Wars’ fan who is a kid, whatever a recommended reading level a book might have, they don’t care.” And they “have the best questions. They have the absolutely best questions.”