Don't look for 12-year-old Johnoliver Gosier and younger brother Leo in front of the television set at their home in rural Harford County this summer.
Johnoliver will probably be curled up in his favorite bedroom chair or seated outside under the trees with a stack of books beside him.
Leo, 10, will be settled on the screened porch with a book in hand.
"Books take me to places I've never been to and probably could never see, like the North Pole, South Pole, Japan and England," said Leo, who will be a fifth-grader at Norrisville Elementary School this fall.
"Most kids think reading is uncool or boring," added Johnoliver, who will enter seventh grade at North Harford Middle School. "But reading lets your imagination go free."
Both boys, as well as their parents, L. James and Donna E. Gosier, are enthusiastic readers who choose to pick up books instead of watching a lot of television.
"We encourage them to read," Jim Gosier said. "TV is a passive activity that doesn't require anything. Reading is an intellectual activity that encourages them to think. It cultivates imagination and it gives them an opportunity to pursue their interests.
"They consider it fun. These two boys just read and read and read."
For birthdays, Christmas, the end of the school year and boring weekends with nothing to do, there have always been gifts of books.
"My mom read to me a lot when I was younger," Johnoliver said. "I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed reading Dr. Seuss or Dick and Jane."
It was the Boxcar Children mystery series by Gertrude Chandler Warner that got Johnoliver hooked on reading, he said. (He and Leo used to fight over the latest additions to the series.) He also liked books about trains, Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys.
"There's always something out there for everybody," said John- oliver, who likes to work outdoors, chopping wood and taking care of his calf, Good Friday. "You've got to try different things."
Both boys like military histories, and Leo enjoys the Hardy Boys and Saddle Club series, as well as "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. He says that reading has helped him to "whiz through tests" and has improved his spelling and vocabulary.
"When I'm reading a good book it seems like I'm right there, except the characters don't see me," said Leo, who also likes to build models, take care of his cat, Flute, and draw.
It was reading, he said, that improved his drawing skills.
"The way the scenery is described helped me to get better pictures in my head so that I can draw things better," he said.
The boys usually visit the library on Friday evenings, sometimes coming home with books that a librarian has put aside for them.
"We get home at 8, and I usually have my nose in a book until 10," Johnoliver said.
This summer, the boys are racing to see who will read the most and win the library's top reader award.
"Some books give me a strange feeling, a type of feeling that I don't understand," Johnoliver said.
"I'm so absorbed. The book just pulls me into it and I'm right there. When I read the first James Herriot book, 'All Creatures Great and Small,' I felt like that. That's my latest favorite series. It really pulled me in."
Pub Date: 7/12/98