We were at the Vintage High Tennis Courts in Napa when the text came through. It was a Tuesday about 11:00 and my boys had just finished their matches in the Vine Valley doubles tournament.


“We are approved to install the sign as soon as you are free to do it.” I had been waiting for this text since I originally posed the idea of a giant READ sign in the plaza two months ago.


I wanted it behind Jim Callahan’s sculpture of Jack London on a bench but the city thought (rightly so) that on that side of the plaza kids might use it as a play structure so they suggested installing it in front of the horseshoe.


I (often with student help) have been putting up ten-foot letters in the community for years. EMPATHY at the High School as well as POOL on the site where the new pool is, SWEEP at the tennis courts when we won our league, JOY in front of a Christmas gift giveaway downtown, HOLLYWOOD in the Altimira gym, VOTE and PEACE at the diRosa preserve and of course,  SONOMAWOOD, BOLLYWOOD and the new SONOMA signs for the Sonoma International Film Festival.


But the READ sign is a little different, kind of a final encouragement to the next generation who spend most of their leisure time staring at and scrolling on little boxes instead of a little books.


And because I am me, I developed a performance task for Geometry class about the sign. Question #5 was “Do you ever read for pleasure? Why or why not?” and #6 was, “Are books extinct? Why or Why not?”


The answers were exactly what I expected, the engaged students said that they do read and that books will never go away while the not-so-engaged students said they only read when it is required in school and that most people do their reading online so maybe books are becoming extinct.


Yet another chapter in the novel, “How cell phones are ruining the world.” But don’t despair, there is hope, there is a movement to get back to reading, a direct response to the many hours we spend staring at screens.


COVID made me a reader. I never really got the pleasure of escaping into a good book when I was younger. Maybe it was maturity, maybe it was connecting with my wife who reads about a novel per week, or maybe I just needed something to fill those glorious COVID hours at home. But something shifted and now I often look forward to time with a book as part of my personal Homeostasis (balance).


Normally I’d talk about what reading does to stimulate the brain, how it reduces stress, enhances creativity, improves your memory and concentration and focus but let’s just go with reading is a simple way to increase your mental health, something all of us need.


So, pull up a chair behind the READ sign this weekend (or any weekend), go to the free authors reading in the plaza Saturday from 11-2, or just discover how this one simple activity can literally change your life.




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