By CLAIRE ARONSON , The Bradenton Herald

PALMETTO, Fla. (AP) — There is nothing quite like reading for Edie Bustle.

“You just can’t beat reading,” the former member of the Manatee County Public Library System Board of Trustees said Wednesday while sitting in her Palmetto home. “It takes you great places. You meet new people. You experience wonderful things, and it’s all with the book held in your own hand.”
For Edie Bustle and her husband Larry, reading is an important part of their lives — both volunteer in the community reading to children. In fact, former Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle says that in retirement, his occupation is reading.

“We both love to read,” Edie Bustle said. “This was a wonderful way to pay back and see kids read as opposed to play games on the computer.”

As a way to ensure more of today’s youth become lifelong learners, the Bustles are hoping that the upcoming “An Evening with Nicholas Sparks” event, which they are co-chairing, will be a success. Proceeds from the Feb. 7 event at Neel Performing Arts Center benefit Manatee Library System’s “I Am a Lifelong Learner” program.

“It’s a great way to support the library system in Manatee County and I think we are both very supportive of the lifelong learning project that the library foundation and the library is promoting,” Larry Bustle said.

With tickets still available for the Sparks event, there are some ticket promotions — a 2-for-1 ticket special and a $25 ticket promotion for educators as well as Manatee County high school and Manatee/Sarasota college students. For tickets, call 941-216-8746.

“The Library Foundation’s fund-raising efforts for this event are aimed at improving literacy in Manatee County through excellent library service,” said Susan Wilcox, foundation event chairwoman. “This year we are delighted to have the opportunity to offer a position of our seating to educators and to other literacy advocates in our community at a reduced rate. It is one small gesture to let these literacy partners and providers know how important they are and how much we appreciate their life’s work.”

The Sparks event is the third such program, which has previously brought authors Stephen King and John Grisham to town and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the county’s library system.

“The money raised from this event is going to go into the lifelong learner program,” Edie Bustle said. “We strongly support that, and reading is one of the most important things a child ever learns to do because it opens so many doors.”

The library’s “I Am a Lifelong Learner” literacy program “aims to improve literacy by targeting the area’s youngest readers by providing a Lifelong Learner Campaign Coordinator to meet families at the point-of-need and offer outreach programs to develop literacy skills,” a news release states.

The focus is getting students to read at grade level by third grade, Larry Bustle said.

“Prior to third grade, you are learning to read. After grade three, you are reading to learn,” he said.

As a former commissioner, Larry Bustle said there is just not enough money to do all the things that are needed.

“That’s going to go a long way to help lifelong learners,” he said of the event.

Since the announcement that Sparks would be speaking at the event, the Bustles have been diving into his novels as well as watching “The Notebook.”

On Wednesday morning, three of Sparks’ books — “The Last Song,” ”A Walk to Remember” and “Message in a Bottle” — were on the Bustles’ coffee table.

“This one is another happy yet sad book,” Edie Bustle said of “Message in a Bottle.” ”I really like this one — and the ending was a surprise.”

For the Bustles, it came as a surprise that they would be co-chairs of the event, which comes just after Larry Bustle finished his time in public service and Edie Bustle ended her time on the Library Board of Trustees.

“That was a big surprise,” Edie Bustle said.

Larry added: “It was.”


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