A while ago I had to speak to our Town Council in defense of our small town library. That’s right, they wanted to cut the library from the budget to pay for more parks and playing fields. Shouting over the noise of a torrential downpour pinging off metal-roofed fire station, I tried to explain to the all male town council why a local library was so important to a community, especially the children. To be perfectly honest, I think they were so shocked to see a female under the age of 65 at a Town Council meeting, I’m not sure they heard me. But after some follow up, the library was saved…for the next fiscal year.
The fact is I was just plain sad to have to go and make the argument for keeping our library open and sharing the treasure of books with our community. With the onslaught of the digital world, the Town Council saw the library as becoming obsolete. Statistically, they did have a point. Until the economic downturn, the library usage was down. Now many community members come to use the computers for job searches in the poor economy and parents looking for more free activities frequent preschool story time in addition to checking out books for free.
As a mother of (only) boys, I cringe when I hear the reading stats for children, especially boys. Which is why I love, love, love this article by Tom Spence in the Wall Street Journal called, How to Raise Boys That Read. I couldn’t agree more with what he says on why dumbing down books for boys to potty humor is the wrong approach, as is bribing with video games. Here are some excerpts, but I highly recommend reading the short piece in full:
One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far….
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books….
People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine’s grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like “Treasure Island” will hold a boy’s attention quite as well as “Zombie Butts from Uranus.” Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.