By Virginia Kropf, Daily News Staff Writer
The community reading project “A Tale for Three Counties” is doing more than librarian Leslie DeLooze could have hoped for.
Eighty-five-year-old Emma Carpenter of Batavia is proof that “Tale” is getting people of all ages to read, and bringing them together to talk about it.
“I’m a ‘booker,’ have been since I was 8 years old and my brother gave me a set of children’s books,” Carpenter said. “I read until I knew them by heart.”
Carpenter’s taste in books ran to history when she was in school, then novels and mysteries. Erle Stanley Gardner was a favorite author, and she and her son used to listen to Nero Wolfe on tapes.
Carpenter became involved with Literacy Volunteers before her husband’s death in 1990, and continued to volunteer after he died. She has always been a Bible reader, and figures she has read the entire Bible through at one time or another. When her eyesight began to fail, she bought a Bible in big print.
Carpenter and a friend, Marilyn Zimmer of Batavia, first heard about “Tale” when they read the first chapter of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s book, In Bleak Midwinter, which was reprinted in The Daily News in January.
“Emma has always been an avid reader, and after she told me to read that chapter, I was hooked,” said Zimmer, who has known Carpenter for years.
Zimmer’s two sons attend Genesee Community College, and when they learned they could receive free books if they read the novel, wrote a report on it and attended a discussion group at the college afterwards, they agreed.
When Carpenter and the Zimmer family first began to read, the small print proved difficult for Carpenter. Zimmer, being the fastest reader, volunteered to read the book aloud.
For four nights, the families gathered and became totally absorbed in the mystery. When each night’s session would end, the participants promised each other not to finish the book on their own, but wait for the next get-together.
Reading is second nature to Carpenter, whose mother read the Bible to the family every night when they were young.
“Before TV, that’s all we had to do, except listen to the radio,” Carpenter said. “There were seven in our family, but we would gather and read like Marilyn did with us.”
DeLooze, who has spearheaded the “Tale” project with representatives from other public libraries in Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties, said it was wonderful to hear about experiences such as Carpenter and the Zimmers.
“This is exactly what we wanted to see,” she said.
DeLooze began planning “A Tale for Three Counties” in February 2002. the project encourages people to read the same book, discuss it, and then meet the author. Spencer-Fleming, the third author to be featured, will visit March 10 to 12.
“This year, I’ve been astounded at the response from the project,” DeLooze said. “It was good the past two years, but this year is overwhelming.”
DeLooze thinks two things have made the difference this year. One was reprinting the book’s first chapter, and the other is word of mouth.
This particular book has also proven very popular for its suspense, setting and characters, DeLooze said.
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation