Irish Book Giveaway — for the love of literature and literacy

You may not have known it but Monday was exactly half a year from St. Patrick’s Day. In honor of this not-quite occasion, a local group called Solas Nua handed out 7500 free books to passersby at Metro stops and libraries around the city making it, well, quite an occasion.

For inveterate readers, a free book is treasure and Irish literature is especially prized.

The mission of Solas Nua, which means new light, is “to give voice in America to contemporary Irish artists and writers.” Solas Nua volunteers have been distributing free Irish books on St. Patrick’s Day for seven years running. This year marked the first mid-year giveaway, christened “Another Craik at St. Patrick’s Day.”

An additional first time aspect of Monday’s book bonanza was an almost invisible focus on adult literacy. Some of the books handed out were part of the Open Book series, a publishing project by Gemma Books, which commissioned bestselling literary authors like Maeve Binchy and Roddy Doyle to write extremely short books that would entice reluctant readers and low-literate adults. The books are charming pocket sized editions designed in slightly larger-than-usual print, which appeals to struggling readers although it might not be noticed by good readers.

The reward that comes from opening one of these small packages, whatever your reading ability, is a great story that the most sophisticated readers will appreciate and that slower readers will be able to digest. The stories succeed marvelously in their intent not to condescend. The characterization is complex, the dialogue realistic, and the poetic power in full force.

If you didn’t get a book, you can check on what you missed at Solas Nua, and if you like what you see, you can check them out of the DC Public Library. The Adult Literacy Resource Center on the third floor of MLK has multiple copies to lend. Center Director Marcia Harrington embraced the book giveaway enthusiastically. Two of her personal passions — for literacy and for all things Irish – came together in the Solas Nua project.

If you did get a free book, you also got a bookmark that asks you to consider becoming a literacy tutor. If you are interested in finding out more, the Resource Center can help point you to a program that needs you, one  that suits your skills and your schedule.

If you love literature, don’t miss another Irish Book day. Sign up with Solas Nua be reminded. Don’t let another “craik” at a free book go by.

And light a candle in thanks for the presence among us of Dennis Houlihan, the head of Solas Nua’s board, who organizes this wonderfully “craik” event every year.  Thanks be to Dennis.