Last Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to hear James Patterson speak as the keynote for the Indiana Library Federation. Mr. Patterson, a man who is on the New York Times Bestseller List more than he isn’t on the list, explained that he doesn’t speak at these engagements for money (he obviously doesn’t need that). But he hopes in speaking to groups about the importance of reading that he will “save a life” along the way.
Sounds silly, right? We all know that reading is important...but saving a life? In last week’s blog, I talked about becoming a better reader by simply reading. But I didn’t touch on an important component of that...access. And that was the message that Mr. Patterson shared. Along with allowing kids to find the right reading material for his/her interests, we need to also provide them the opportunity to find that material.
Those of us who were fortunate to grow up in homes of readers probably never knew a home without reading material. We either had books on our bookshelves or something just as powerful--a library card. But for some, it is not that simple. Not every resident in this state or country has a public library that he or she can get a card without cost. A lot of school libraries are being downsized, consolidated, or cut out completely to save money. I had an administrator tell me a few years ago that while we are lucky to have a school library, “we could survive without it.”
But could we have survived as a school system? Could we survive as a town? Without access to libraries, there are too many residents who would not have materials read. It seems like such a simple message that so many have yet to understand. It is a message that Dr. Seuss says clearly, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” But to be a reader, you need to have books, and you need to have access to a lot of books.
Knowledge is power, and we can’t gain that knowledge without being readers. When Mr. Patterson was talking about saving a life, he meant it. If a child becomes a reader, and learns from being a reader, the opportunities for that child are limitless. There is so much out of our control right now in this time of political transition within our country. There is a lot of unrest, and a lot of uncertainty. And many of us are asking, “What can we do?” We can continue to lobby our politicians to make sure that we have tax dollars to support our school and public libraries. We can encourage our kids to become readers. Because readers become thinkers, and knowledge is power.
November 13, 2016