Friday, February 29, 2008

Big Read or Big Waste ?

~ So, what do you think: is Burbank Reads, The Big Read or One City, One Book 'big wastes' or 'a bad solution that addresses the wrong problem?'

Big Read or big waste? Speeches and an $8-million program will not turn Americans into readers.

L A Times: Feb 25, 2008 by Jim Henley

If you blew off your summer reading lists in school, the government is here to help. Alarmed by the proportional decline in reading for pleasure among Americans, the National Endowment for the Arts has expanded its Big Read initiative, which is designed to "restore reading to the center of American culture." Big Read began as a pilot project in 2006 and is similar to the "city reads" projects across the nation that began in the late 1990s.

America has not lacked for opportunities to read "A Farewell to Arms" or "The Great Gatsby.” According to the NEA's own figures, pleasure reading has been declining (in percentage terms) despite all these public and private reading drives. The idea that a few million dollars and speeches by a few hundred mayors are going to make pleasure reading "central" again is too silly for, well, words.

Jim Henley is right about the National Endowment of the Arts’ “Big Read” plan to encourage reading: Stephen Krashen: sent to the Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2008. Re: ("Big read or big waste?,” February 25)

Their elitist approach is like trying to deal with hunger by having wine tasting parties.

Also it is not clear that we are reading less. Studies show that in 1945 only 21% said they read something yesterday. In 1991, it was 31%, and in 2006, 38%, suggesting an increase in reading.

Scores show that reading ability has not declined. Fourth and eighth grade reading scores have not decreased since 1984. Twelfth graders’ scores dropped only four points since 1984 and are the same as they were in 1971.

The real problem is that children of poverty haven little to read at home, in school, or in their communities. As a result, they don’t read very much and don’t read very well.

The Big Read is a bad solution that addresses the wrong problem.
Stephen Krashen - Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

"Rocket Boys" Community Blast-Off is tomorrow night!

It is not too late to make your plans to join us at the 2008 Burbank READS kick-off...err, Community Blast-Off event! See you at 6:30 PM at Buena Vista!

Burbank Public Library invites you to Blast-off with "Rocket Boys,"
the 2008 Burbank READS selection.

4...3...2...1...Community Blast-Off!

Saturday, March 1, 2008
Buena Vista Branch Library
300 N. Buena Vista St.
Between 6:30 and 8:00 PM

Find out what happens when all of Burbank reads "Rocket Boys" by
Homer H. Hickam, Jr.!

Join your friends & neighbors for a cruise through the galaxy with
the Sidewalk Astronomers. View Mars, Saturn and the stars through
real telescopes. [This will be outdoors so dress warmly!]

Bring your camera and take a picture with an "Astronaut."

Souvenirs! Treats!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

October Sky Festival - Coalwood WV

Burbank Reads invites you to take a tour of Coalwood, WV. and visit the hometown of Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys.
~ Coalwood: Then & Now
~ Timeline
~ Historic Photos
~ October Sky Festival
~ October Sky - Filming Locations & Info

Or check out the Dan Traveling video of the October Sky Festival which takes place October 4 this year.

Monday, February 25, 2008

4...3...2...1...Join us for the Community Blast-Off!

The Burbank Public Library invites you to Blast-off with "Rocket Boys" the 2008 Burbank READS selection.

4...3...2...1...Community Blast-Off!

Stop by on Saturday, March 1, 2008 at the Buena Vista Branch Library 300 N. Buena Vista St. Between 6:30 and 8:00 PM

Find out what happens when all of Burbank reads "Rocket Boys" by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.!

Join your friends & neighbors for a cruise through the galaxy with the Sidewalk Astronomers. View Mars, Saturn and the stars through real telescopes.
[This will be outdoors so dress warmly!]

Bring your camera and take a picture with an "Astronaut.

Souvenirs! Treats!!

For info call 818-238-5600

Or check us out online at and

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


We invite you to join the Brown Bag Book Club for a casual discussion of Rocket Boys on March 18th at noon at Burbank Central Library. Pack a sandwich and join us to talk about Coalwood, Sonny and the boys, Homer Senior and Elsie. You might even get a moon pie or a rocket cookie for dessert!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Joslyn Book Club Loves "The Rocket Boys"!

"Rocket Boys" by Homer Hickam Jr. won the hearts of the rocket girls of the Joslyn Afternoon Book Club.

The cookies and goodies were a big hit and so were the comments:

*I either choked up or cried on every page.
*Loved the juxtaposition of the bowels of the earth (mines) and the rocket to outer endless space.
*We heard the recording of the Explorer that was taped by one of the members. The longest long distant phone call. 2.6 million miles in space.
*A tribute to the education these boys received and to the excellent teachers.
*Loved the book. It touched me.
*All the people who helped to make it happen. It takes a village.
*Something for the young, parents everyone
*Movie was also excellent and a great cast* I read this ten years ago and thought I would just skim it this time but I started reading it and was so captured I was half way through before I stopped to write some notes.
* I am thinking of buying it for my grandson.
*Good role model for kids in this city. Will encourage them to follow their dreams.
*Fabulous story teller. Story of growing up. Many touching times.
* I read it twice it made me feel so good.Hooray for who ever choose this book. It is perfect.

We are pleased that it is perfect and we hope that the rest of Burbank enjoys the book as much as the Joslyn Book Club!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Homer Hickam said . . .

What a wonderful honor to have Rocket Boys chosen for Burbank Reads! The book has been picked by hundreds of cities as their annual read but I have to say being selected by Burbank is especially meaningful. I am often in the area and have always admired your sweet city.

If I may, I would suggest you contact a couple of local folks to perhaps come by and chat at one of your gatherings: Chuck Gordon who produced October Sky and now heads up Daybreak Productions, and Mickey Freiberg of the Acme Agency who was and is my agent and steered my book to Universal Studios. Not sure if they're vailable but you never know. Of course, you can also see if Jake Gyllenhaal is in town, too! Yes, the movie is quite a bit different from the book but the people who made it definitely had their hearts in the right place and made very good film, one I'm proud to be associated with.

To contact me, just go to and go to the Contact Us page.

Thanks again and best wishes for a successful Burbank Reads!

Homer Hickam
February 8, 2008 11:48 AM

Friday, February 8, 2008

Homer Hickam

Watch a clip of a speech by Homer Hickam @
~ Greater Talent Network, Inc.

Check out Homer's Blog @ Homer Hickam Online

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Joslyn Book Club to Chat about "Rocket Boys".

Attention all members of the Joslyn Book Club, a reminder to be ready to discuss “Rocket Boys” at your meeting on February 11.

Here are some questions about "Rocket Boys" for your consideration.

1. In the first paragraph of the book, Homer writes that his hometown was “at war with itself over its children.” What does he mean?

2. Could you identify with Homer’s inspiration for rockets upon hearing about Sputnik? Do you remember those times?

3. Do you think the feeling towards the space program has changed since the times referred to in this book?

4. Many of the miners root for Homer. Why doesn't Homer's Dad share his dream? Why is it easier for him to show his pride in Jim?

5. Sometimes when we look back it seems as though the 50’s were of a simpler more idyllic time in American history. Do you think this is true or just a perception?

6. Although Burbank is not as geographically isolated as Coalwood was, can you draw comparisons between the two towns? Do you think Lockheed and the studio industry made Burbank a company town to some degree?

7. How do you think aeronautics affected the town of Burbank?

8. Homer and his friends turned “scraps of metal into sophisticated rockets”. How do you think their surroundings helped or hindered their efforts?

9. Today we are surrounded by personal technology. How do you think this encourages or inhibits our creativity?

10. The quote selected for our 2008 Burbank READS bookmark is from Homer’s teacher Miss Riley when she gives him the book Principles of Guided Missile Design, “All I’ve done is give you a book. You have to have the courage to learn what’s inside it.” Is there a book that has had an impact on your life?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Welcome to the new Burbank READS blog! It is my pleasure to announce that the 2008 title for Burbank READS has been selected. After reading many books and having numerous lively discussions about the various titles, the committee has chosen (drum roll, please!) Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.!

Rocket Boys, also published as October Sky, is a wonderful coming of age memoir about high school boys who are inspired to build a rocket of their own after the successful launch of the Russian rocket, Sputnik. Set in a coal mine town in West Virginia in the late 1950’s, the boys struggle against almost insurmountable odds to follow their dream. This book will make you laugh, perhaps get a little teary-eyed, but certainly inspire you with the determination of these young men to succeed in their quest. Given Burbank’s long connection with Lockheed and the 50th anniversary of the NASA and JPL, this is a timely book certain to evoke memories of the early days of aeronautics and man’s desire to travel to the stars.

Yes, the library has stocked many copies of Rocket Boys (October Sky), and has a copy in Spanish, as well as the abridged version of the book on compact disc. We also have the DVD of the movie, October Sky, which was based on the book. Stop by and check out a copy soon!

We will officially kick off BURBANK READS on March 1, 2008, as we all gather at the Buena Vista Branch Library for a night of family fun including a visit from the Sidewalk Astronomer who will have telescopes set up in the park for all to gaze at the stars. For more information on this and other upcoming programs, check this site or visit our website at Brochures outlining the programs will also be available soon at the library.

In the meantime we will be confirming a number of wonderful upcoming programs including a visit by a retired astronaut! Of course, there will be screenings of the movie October Sky, discussion group opportunities, programs for children and a special dramatic reading from the book. There will be lots happening over the next two months, so grab a copy of Rocket Boys now and start reading!

Wouldn’t it be fun if everybody in Burbank read the same book at the same time?? Join us as we all read Rocket Boys and participate in the many programs as we build community page by page!!