Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working with teens reviewing books on The Missourian’s MO Books Blog. The experience led to a recent conversation with a teacher friend of mine about teen reading.

It’s encouraging to see Jimmy and Jodi relishing the young adult books I pass along to them, I told my friend, noting the quality of their reviews. This avid reading by teens is shocking to me, I said, at a time when statistics show that teenagers spend very little time reading for pleasure.

“In the past five years, I’m actually seeing students reading more books,” Judy said, optimistically. And she wasn’t talking about on screens, but relishing old-fashioned texts we grew up with, dog-eared paperbacks passed from one reader to another or hardcovers checked out at libraries.

What an upper to hear Judy’s comment in a time when books seem to be getting the heave-ho, replaced by gadgets birthed in our crazed world of electronics.

I understand the trend. When I first started writing “Novel Ideas” for The Missourian 12 years ago, the publishing houses sent colorful catalogs of their seasonal lists. Now all the catalogs are online, and review copies are not only sent out as physical copies but also offered as e-books.

Last year, on a trip to Great Britain, I thought I’d be smart and download a number of the e-books to read on vacation. That made toting my suitcase a lot easier, but I kept turning to the two paper copies of books I’d brought along. Though I’ve gotten used to reading on my Kindle and iPad, I still prefer having the heft of a book in my hands, being enticed by the cover and able to flip easily back and forth in the text.

In this day and age, not many newspapers have book editors, so I feel privileged to be able to write “Novel Ideas” and now cover news and reviews on the MO Books Blog. We’re fortunate to have a newspaper that’s so pro-books and literacy.

Books Blog

While this new blogging endeavor is keeping me busy, it’s a delight to distribute books to guest reviewers and share their take on titles, thus creating a community of readers fed not only by our two amazing area libraries but by our community newspaper.

In addition to reviews, MO Books features Thursday Book Bits, news about literary happenings, and a Weekend Read, a regular Friday post that highlights a new book I’ll be diving into.

This week MO Books will include Nancy Croson’s review of “Chestnut Street,” by Mave Binchey, as well as a YA review of “Girls Like Us,” by newbie reviewer Jodie Willenbrink, and Jimmy Pak’s review of “Swim That Rock.”

Jodie will be a senior at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, and Jimmy is a recent Borgia graduate.

Thursday’s Book Bits will focus on a photography project adopted from the Book Buzz Pick, “Half a Chance,” by author Cynthia Lord. The novel, perfect for young readers, is about Lucy, a budding photographer. She enters a Photo Scavenger Hunt, a contest Newsbee has adopted for kids ages 9-13.

One winner will receive a camera. Runners-up will receive an autographed copy of the book — anything to keeps kids reading and forming a lifelong love of books. You can learn more about the contest in The Missourian, or online.

One of the best ways to grow of a love of books is to live life as a reader, display books, let kids see you reading. Over the weekend, our 10-year-old grandson Reed left for Boy Scout camp. Among the forms and gear he tucked in two Book Buzz Picks that his mom was hoping would last him through the week.

I actually delivered three Book Buzz books to his house, but he raced through “The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses” in one day, well before he had to leave for camp. “It was great,” he said.

That’s a response I love to hear from readers of all ages.

Keep “Paging On” and check out MO Books — go to emissourian.com, click on Features and you’ll see the blog at the top of the pull down menu.