Bill O'Reilly joins 13th annual Celebration of Reading

Love him or hate him, Bill O'Reilly knows how to get folks talking.

He has a top-rated show on Fox News and currently has two books on The New York Times best-sellers list — "Killing Lincoln: The Assassination that Changed America" and "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot."

His Lincoln book has been on the best-seller list for more than 69 weeks, and an adaptation of the book — narrated by Tom Hanks and directed by Ridley Scott — premiers on the National Geographic Channel on Feb. 17.

The historical thrillers are the latest in a series of nonfiction books written by the Fox News anchor. They're also one of the main reasons O'Reilly will be one of the authors featured at the 2013 Florida Celebration of Reading on Feb. 15 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs.

If you go

13th annual Florida Celebration of Reading

When: Friday, Feb. 15

Where: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, 5001 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs

Who: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, are expected to attend. Featured authors are Bill O’Reilly, author and host of “The O’Reilly Factor”; Harlan Coben, author of five consecutive novels that have debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list; Dr. Arthur Agatson, creator and author of the South Beach Diet; and Andrea Beaty, children’s book author.

For more information: or to purchase tickets, visit www.CelebrationofReading.org

Liza McFadden, president of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a fan of O'Reilly's books and personally invited to this year's event.

"It's always great when you get to ask your favorite author's to attend," she said.

Now in it's 13th year in Florida, McFadden said the Celebration of Reading event continues to attract literacy advocates to Southwest Florida to look for ways "talk about literacy and be engaged in it in a meaningful way."

"The Southwest Florida area has become a home away from home for us, for people who care about family literacy," she said.

O'Reilly, a former Florida high school teacher, talked recently with the Daily News about the event, his dedication to improving literacy and the future of the Republican Party.

Daily News: How did you get involved with Celebration of Reading?

O'Reilly: I know the Bush family slightly and Mrs. Bush, the matriarch, called me and basically said we're having this event down in Naples and can I clear my schedule. And I said, sure. You know, Barbara Bush is a legend and a patriot, and if I can help out a little I'll try to do that. It's a very simple thing.

Daily News: Why is it important for you to support literacy programs?

O'Reilly: I used to teach high school in Florida in a suburb near Miami. You have to have a fundamental skill with reading, and it all starts there. Too many parents don't pay attention to this, so then the schools have to take over, and if you don't have any reading in the home it's very difficult for teachers. In my classes I could see the difference between kids that ... had that encouragement. So anything I can do now to help the system, the state of Florida, or any other state, to rescue these kids who aren't getting this chance, I'm going to do.

Daily News: Why did you start writing historical thrillers, like "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Kennedy"?

O'Reilly: I think I had written pretty much all I could write in contemporary nonfiction, and they were all very, very successful. But there wasn't really any ground that I had to put on paper. So then I tried to figure out where my interests lie … so I figured I'd write these books in a way that everyone can enjoy them, they're not going to be 900 pages and very dry. I'm going to make an effort to write a story down on paper that everyone will read.

Daily News: What was the process of turning your book, "Killing Lincoln," into a movie?

O'Reilly: I didn't really have much of a role other than a producer, make sure that they hold true to what was happening, and they were. What they did was they decided to make John Wilkes Booth the centerpiece of the movie rather than Lincoln. That was smart because you have the Spielberg Lincoln movie with Daniel Day Lewis and you're not going to top that. So they made Booth the guy who really drove it. He's the villain, but he's a charismatic villain.

Daily News: What are your thoughts on the bipartisan immigration proposal?

O'Reilly: I don't get into it too often until I see it on paper. I want to see what the reform bill is going to be before I start to talk about it, bloviate about it. ... Let's see what it is, then we will really discuss it.

Daily News: Why do you think immigration reform is coming up now?

O'Reilly: The president of the United States always drives the agenda. He didn't really have a lot interest in it during his first four years, now he does. And I think he does because he wants to put the Republican Party on the spot because of the gains Democrats made in Hispanic areas. It's a good strategic move for Democrats.

Daily News: What do Republicans need to do to change the perception of the party?

O'Reilly: It's all about leadership. The Republicans should have defeated President (Barack) Obama on paper. But (Republican nominee Mitt) Romney's leadership on the campaign was lacking, especially after Sandy blew him off the front page. He didn't close the deal. You know he won the first debate by a lot, he had momentum and then he didn't perform in the next two debates. So it's more about leadership than anything else. And the Republicans are searching for leadership now, and it will be interesting if they can find it.

Daily News: Who do you think will come out as front-runners in both parties in the 2016 presidential race?

O'Reilly: The guys now in the Republican Party that are building their war chest — and that's always the indicator, they're collecting money — are Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. So they're already in the fray. I expect to see John Kasich, the governor from Ohio, take a look at it and a few other governors.

As far as the Democrats, it looks like (Vice President Joe) Biden is very serious about it. He's setting himself up against (former Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton. But you know, a lot depends on Mrs. Clinton's health and things like that.

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