I know you’re mad. I know your colleagues have been fired or may be on the brink of being fired. I know your libraries are shutting their doors left and right. All this is happening, even though studies show that having children grow up without a school librarian is really, really bad.
Do we blame the digital wave? Going digital can be smart, and it can be effective for teaching. Sharing an ebook with a classroom might save a lot of money. But this transition of the book culture is not happening in a sane, well thought-out way. We’re losing bookstores and libraries. Isn’t the chance for a young kid to grow up surrounded by a roomful of books getting pretty limited? That can’t be good.
Do we blame the unforgiving economy? Sure. But something more important is going on here—something we have more control over: Our country is not prioritizing the importance of books and reading.
Books are losing a presence in our children’s lives.
We can fix this.
Let’s together embark on a crusade to get kids reading more books. I know you have done this in your communities, and I like to think I’ve been trying, too. I built my site ReadKiddoRead.com to help laypeople find books for kids. My College Book Bucks and Summer Book Bucks programs award kids with book shopping sprees at their local indies. I now have teacher scholarships set up at 20 universities (and growing) across the country. I recently pledged to donate $ one million to help independent bookstores get back in the game. But we still have to tackle the question…
Who will save our libraries?
Before I start shipping bean bag chairs to every school district, I better back up and ask the experts.
Did you save your library? How?
Have you ever had—or have you been mulling—one great, concrete idea that, in a concrete way, will help?
What is the number one thing we need for libraries to reach the most kids and have the most impact on a school or neighborhood?
Is it all about convincing the school boards to spend money more wisely? Recently, an author writing about school funds found a school in the Pacific Northwest that spent four times as much on each cheerleader as it did on each math student. (Was Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach from “Glee,” coaching there?) I don’t know that we can challenge sports entitlement head-on. But, can we plant a seed pointing out that we’re getting out of whack here?
Does it come down to having me call your school board president? “Hi, I’m author James Patterson. I hear you’re voting in a very important election tomorrow, and I wanted to talk to you about keeping books and reading as your number one priority….”
In theory, at least, I can do this. A get-out-the-vote school board tour.
What drives school boards? Do we have to look upstream and shake up taxpaying parents? Reading starts at the home. If we don’t convince parents to take a more active role in their children’s lives, we don’t have much of a shot.
Do you need me to bring a live alligator into your library? (Susan Scatena, the children’s librarian at the Queens [NY] Library, read Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under my Bed [Dial, 1987] to a real alligator when kids met her summer reading challenge. In my opinion, she’s a hero.)
Tell me with whom I need to speak. Tell me how to start changing the system’s priorities.
I’d like to feature your stories where I can—my Facebook page, along with my websites JamesPatterson.com and ReadKiddoRead. Help me get your voice out there. Please, use my below comments section as an idea board.
First: I like BIG ideas.
Second: I’m going to choose at least one big idea from your voices, and make it happen. I think we will make a great team.
James Patterson, Children’s Choice Book Awards Author of the Year winner, has sold over 280 million books worldwide and holds the Guinness World’s Record for the most New York Times bestsellers. His latest books for middle- grade and YA readers include Treasure Hunters and Confessions: The Private School Murders (both Hachette, 2013).