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Kathy Fronheiser and Christopher D. Ochs at 2021’s Great Allentown Fair

Recently, I and another author rented a booth at one of the major fairs in Pennsylvania. The rental fee was pricey, but I made a small amount over the outlay, so it was financially a positive. My host and cohort was most gracious and a wonderful conversationalist, so the dead time between interactions with readers was fun and flew by.

Once the doors to the public were flung open, I discovered a large fly in this fair-experience ointment. First, you must understand my usual venues for selling my brand and my books are book stores, book fairs, wineries and craft fairs. However, this day’s adventure in sole proprietorship took place in a less, shall we say… genteel environment. I slogged bravely on, and continued to use many of my tried-and-true catchphrases to attract potential customers’ attention. For example, “Have you heard of my award-winning book?” and “What do you like to read?”
Normally, my writing style tends to get wordy. Not this time. I’ll get right to the point.
I was surprised and dismayed by the number of people who responded,
“I don’t read.”
Even worse, a handful of people were indignant that I dared ask. A few even snarled.

Before you jump to any conclusions about these unfortunate people, let me say, “Please don’t.”

Equal numbers of adults and teens responded “I don’t read.”
Admittedly, the younger people often had there noses in their electronic devices.
There was no observable common behavior among the adults, other than a recurring excuse that they had no time to read.

Nor could I detect any prevalent political party affiliation. There was a booth across the walkway that peddled New Americana chotchkys — t-shirts with a collage of bullets in the form of the American flag, “Old Glory”s made of painted pallet wood, woodburning art that combined images of rifles and crosses, etc. I’ll bet you can correctly guess the party affiliation the majority of their customers were.
However, the people who told me “I don’t read” were equally drawn or repelled by that very busy booth’s merchandise.

Ladies & gents, we have a problem. People who, willingly or unwillingly, don’t read.
I’ll say here the same thing I remarked to my author friend that day — “This is why people take Ivermectin.”

On a somewhat different topic for a quick moment, one curious trend I noticed: the day’s most popular book was not my latest award-winning book My Friend Jackson, but my collection of “disturbed bedtime reading to inflict on naughty children,” If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep. No complaints. A sale’s a sale!

Getting back to the original topic of willing illiteracy… I am disturbed to the point of needing to do something. But what? Sure, we can teach kids to love reading early. But how to teach to joy of books to grown and less malleable brains? I’ve ruminated about this for two weeks, and have nothing. How does a writer, whose major tool is the written word, get people to want to read? Any ideas, please comment.
Thanks, and stay healthy!