This fall, local residents will have the chance to kickstart their literary interests and rev up their reading.
They will be able to maneuver a country road while the wind blows in their hair or hug tight curves and feel the horsepower of acceleration, all in their imaginations.
The county’s public libraries have joined together to present “Hit the Road, READ!,” a community reading event centered on motorcycles and biking culture.
People of all ages will be encouraged to read one of three motorcycle-focused books, meet authors who have devoted their lives to motorcycles and learn about fringed leather crafts, tattoos and bike safety.
“We just wanted to bring the county together to talk about literacy, bring us together as one community and enjoy reading,” said Amy Kitchen, spokeswoman for the Johnson County Public Library. “Motorcycles are a new twist and a fun focus. It’ll be the fall, and we thought this was a perfect time to do this.”
Organizers have picked three books that deal with motorcycling, one each for different reading levels. For older readers, they chose “The Ride So Far,” by Lance Oliver, a motorcycle journalist who chronicled his rides throughout the world as well as his love of different types of bikes.
Teens can escape into the freedom of the road in John Green’s “Paper Towns,” while children will enjoy the hijinks of Beverly Cleary’s “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.”
“Our goal was to find something that would catch on every age group,” Kitchen said. “We wanted to find something that would meet everyone’s needs.”
While the libraries in Johnson County, Edinburgh and Greenwood have created their own individual reading events, this is the first time the three districts have banded together to do something countywide.
Kitchen, Greenwood director of development Jane Weisenbach and Edinburgh library director Cathy Hamm all worked to create a monthlong event.
Motorcycles came up as a subject that would have broad appeal in the community, as well as the opportunity for some fun and unique programming, Weisenbach said.
“I always wanted to do a motorcycle ride but never had the opportunity. Drawing someone who otherwise might not come into the library is always exciting to us too,” she said.
Local motorcycle group American Bikers Aimed Towards Education and Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson helped fund and host certain events.
A $3,000 grant from the Johnson County Community Foundation helped pay for appearances by two motorcycle-related authors. Oliver will discuss his travels and experiences on the back of a bike, while Jean Davidson, granddaughter of one of the founders of Harley-Davidson, will talk about her life in one of the first families of motorcycles.
Each library branch has the opportunity to choose activities to fit into the reading event, Weisenbach said. Greenwood adapted its Project Foodie group to focus on the best food of local drive-ins and diners.
Franklin will host a screening of the movie “Wild Hogs” starring John Travolta and Tim Allen.
Activities such as creating your own fringed leather keychain and making your own root beer will be conducted at branches multiple times throughout the month.
“It is a true collaboration. Everyone had their say. We made sure everyone had activities that they thought would be interesting,” Weisenbach said.
The community reading event will close with a festival on Sept. 13 , featuring food, games, motorcycle simulators and other events. A Ride for Reading bike and motorcycle ride will encourage people to visit five library branches throughout Johnson County.
“When you do a community-wide read, you want everyone to take part,” Weisenbach said. “Getting all three systems together seemed like a great way to get everyone in the county involved.”