Last December, I wrote a column about getting outside and embracing Maine’s winters, but we all know that sometimes we just want to hunker down, cozy up and stay inside. So as autumn weather descends upon us, the sun sets earlier and the temperatures drop quicker, it’s a wonderful time to make reading the new favorite family indoor activity!

Phillip Potenziano, superintendent of the Brunswick School Department.

For an avid reader, it’s easy to find a new series or new genre to explore. In fact, if you are the designated bookworm in your household, then I challenge you to create a book group. Whether it’s within your family or with a group of friends or a combination of friends, family and neighbors, pick a novel, a memoir – even a poem – that the group can read and come together to discuss themes, messages, characters and more. The beauty of a book group in the age of Zoom is that you can loop in friends and family around the country or around the world and not just rely on meeting in person with folks nearby. Want to focus on a theme? This website,, has a great list of Maine authors; you’ll be amazed at the literary talent in our own state.

With younger kids, reading together might mean setting up an old-fashioned story time. Older children or adults can read aloud to the younger ones, or younger children can practice their read-aloud skills by reading to the others.

For teens, sometimes it’s a matter of finding a genre that piques their interest. Please don’t shy away from controversial topics or autobiographies by their favorite celebrities or musicians. Often the book your teen picks can open a dialogue on topics that might not otherwise be raised. For example, I read with my son the New York Times bestseller, “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane”; it can be a wonderful window into the young adult they are becoming.

If you can’t be outside, read about being outside. “Hans Brinker” (aka “The Silver Skates”) is credited with introducing the sport of speed skating to Americans. “In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum” by Jeremy Evans gives excellent insights into the evolution of ski and snowboarding culture. “Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth” by Jim Steenburgh, a professor of atmospheric science and a weather predictor for the winter Olympics, covers fascinating facts and figures about mountain weather, snow safety, avalanches and historical weather events – and has great photos.

But the real beauty of reading is that it doesn’t have to be about reading a book at all.

A friend told me her father used to open the dictionary each night, land on a page and pick three or four words for the family to learn about and discuss together. Pull out a cookbook and show your toddler how to follow the recipe for a batch of cookies, or ask younger children to tell a story by drawing pictures and then “reading” their story to you. Even audiobooks count as “reading”!

And let’s not forget poetry. Since Maine is home to Obama’s inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, take a look at the inaugural poems from the last five or 10 years at Part intro to poetry, part history lesson. Or ask each family member to download the lyrics (poems set to music) to their favorite songs and then talk through the meaning of each. What a fantastic way to learn about songs from a range of decades.

I encourage you to check out your local bookstore, go online or go to the library and see where it might lead you. There are plenty of chilly nights ahead of us to explore the written word in all its forms and to share, discuss and even debate what is discovered with those around us.

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