Book-starved Utah boy begs postman for junk mail to read: How to respond?

Editor’s note – as a preface to David Rothman’s article, and with thanks for his unrelenting, expert work promoting literacy in America and free access to physical and online libraries, e-books and internet connectivity for all, I add another stone to the foundation of the goal we all seek. Stories such as the one that David shares here are repeated in communities large and small around America. We are a nation of tremendous resources that has in many recurring instances, with almost astronomical frequency, chosen to turn them to waste, and throw them out (food [Every year, 30 to 40 percent of what is grown and raised in the United States is thrown away or rots between farms and kitchens. That’s a startling 133 billion pounds of food], books [Fairfax County Public Library has thrown out 2,888,982 books and other items in nine fiscal years!] and water [The U.S. Wastes 7 Billion Gallons of Drinking Water a Day are just a few salient examples]. The magnitude of this waste reflects a scope that resonates from within each and every story written about an American child, mother, father, disabled individual, elderly citizen, or countless others who do without the basics that as Americans we assume everyone should and for the most part, have, by virtue of living in America. So, as David educates us and moves us toward action to initiate and maintain critical change, let’s all be conscious of how we can act, what we can actively do, not just once, but ongoing, to ensure that at the very least, every child in our country has clean drinking water, a daily diet of healthy and safe food, and yes, books. Let’s make books for all children the gift that has no exclusions; books to read and enjoy, to read to learn, to read and then dream and imagine and create and engage, both today and in the future, with equal access, without fear, and without cost. Stepping off tiny soap box and – on to the article.

A book-starved Utah boy who was so bored he begged the postman for junk mail.

Instead mailman Ron Lynch asked his Facebook friends to donate books for young Mathew Flores.

Scads of people from all over the world responded.

Enough said? Not quite. You see, the big question is why Mathew lacked access to books in the first place. Turns out that his family didn’t own a car and Mathew even had trouble scraping up bus fare. So goes his version of the facts. True? I don’t know. But now let’s imagine another story.

Suppose Net connections and the right gadgets were available at home for the poor, so they could tap into public libraries remotely. Never again would Mathew’s fare be limited to junk mail and the like. Granted, e-books at home are no replacement for library visits and inspiration by librarians in person. But they can still help libraries stretch resources at a time when U.S. public libraries can spend only about $4 per capita on books and other content.

The key is the creation of a national digital library endowment and well-stocked national digital library systems to deal with the issue of book deserts—either at the neighborhood level or within individual households. Significantly, a powerful relationship exists between recreational reading and academic achievement.

While the endowment could not single-handedly boost book spending to proper levels or completely address libraries’ other financial woes, it would at least help.

Editor’s Note – permission granted by author to re-publish from Teleread.

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