Libraries, like newspapers, are being hit hard by modern technology. Public libraries are also frequently back-burnered by municipalities when there are budget shortfalls (and you can argue about the short-sightedness of this all you want to no avail). But, personally (and with apologies to Mark Twain), I think the rumors of the death of the library are greatly exaggerated. Oh, there won’t be as many of them, but they won’t go away entirely. Not everyone cares for iPads or computers, and not everyone can afford them. For libraries to disappear entirely, the majority of people living in a community would have to sacrifice every long-held assumption about what it takes to build character and develop critical thinking. You can point up that even Rome submitted to barbarism, of course, but I don’t think we are anywhere near that point.
According to the American Library Association, summer reading programs developed in urban areas in the 1880s to encourage children who had leisure time to read and grow. I am delighted to see that our local Springfield, Illinois library—like hundreds of other libraries in communities large and small—has big plans for its summer reading program. For more about Lincoln Library’s Reading is So Delicious! Summer program, go to Lincoln Library’s summer reading site.
Springfield, Illinois is far from alone in this. Other Illinois communities, like Rochester, Jerseyville, Elmhurst, and hundreds of others that are lucky enough to have public libraries are planning big things—as are hundreds of other libraries in probably every state in the union.
Parents, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor. Encouraging kids to think about the world and their place in it helps to form their character, and there is no better way for them to enter into that world than with books. Encourage their curiosity, encourage them to read, and you will give them a foundation for character building that no material wealth can ever afford or satisfy. I can testify to this, since we had very little growing up but my mother was prescient enough to introduce me to Moby Dick when I was 7 years old. It was a gift that is still giving. I have her to thank for that, and the Jacksonville Public Library. Take advantage of your summer reading program, wherever you live, if you are lucky enough to have one!
Summer Reading. It’s free. It’s fun. And it can make all the difference in the world to your children, your teens—or yourself!