Children and Reading: A Sad State of Affairs!
As the holiday season approached, I thought that it would be enjoyable to do some free readings for children at libraries. For many children, this is one of the few ways that they can experience and enjoy literature and reading. After all, a local author, who is a child psychologist, and who is willing to read from his recent award-winning children’s book, “The Adventures of Seamus the Sheltie,” for free – should be welcome. Right?
When I approached the Head Librarian at the local regional library, she simply tossed the book to one side and rudely said, “Maybe sometime in the summer – we don’t have any holiday programs for children, I don’t have time right now.” With that, she simply walked away. Perhaps she was just having a bad day. The next weekend, I went to a small library in a nearby town. When I went in, I noticed that there were only two people in the library. Both were teenagers occupied on their cell phones. The young lady behind the desk made me wait until she had finished telling the person that she was talking to on her cell phone all about the man she had dated the night before. When I explained to her who I was and that I wanted to do a free reading for the children, she informed me that they “Didn’t do things like that.” – then she started making another cell call.
The more that I thought about these events, the angrier I became. “The next time I do a reading and children’s Q&A session for you – it won’t be for free!” I told myself. My angst was intensified by a local story in the newspaper that day of a school board meeting that was overwhelmed by angry parents because they had dared to suggest a minor cut in funding for one athletic program. Heaven forbid!
After I calmed down a bit, I remembered that it is not the children’s fault that the libraries I visited are run by bureaucrats and political appointees. The kids are not to blame for the fact that their parents do not demand from their libraries such things as children’s reading programs or visiting author’s series. I really hope that these libraries are not typical.
What has happened to our priorities for our children? Is it any wonder that children are growing up with no interest in reading? That they have no interest in anything that can not be found in current pop culture or sports? Should we be surprised when we hear statistics like those presented on MSNBC a few months ago that stated that 80% of high school graduates 30 and under have never read another book or entered a bookstore?
As I said, it is not the children’s fault, and I will continue to do readings for children when I can.
By the way – when was the last time you asked your library about a guest reading program for children?