School Library Literacy – Where Are the Books, Babe?

Books are not dead yet–at least not in my book–no matter how much technology surrounds us, nor should they be if we value our children’s future.

On a recent tour of the newly-built home of our local high school open just a year now and constructed at a cost of several millions, we observed state of the art facilities for sports (three-court gymnasium), theater (auditorium, stage, pit orchestra, back-stage area to build and store sets, dressing rooms), orchestra and band (separate practice rooms).

When we came to the library, we saw a beautifully designed and technologically well-equipped space. But, where are the books? For thousands of students, there were barely three books per student. The last six stacks were completely empty. The stacks were prominently marked with pictures and smaller language labels.

When I asked our guide “Isn’t the library a little light on books?”, he told me that no one reads books anymore. No one needs books anymore. It’s the technology. Everything is done on computer. Books are a thing of the past.

I don’t think so.

Seeing the sparsely stocked library space and the guide’s nonchalant answer shocked me. Rather than seeming progressive, it seemed a sign of declining literacy. I spend many hours getting my needs met by computer and belong to an organization of electronic publishers promoting e-books and e-book readers. My book and my father’s latest book are both available in e-book format. But, at the end of the day, I sit down with a book I can turn the pages of.

My great-nieces, 11 and 7, have spent the summer reading–book–real books–the old-fashioned kind, the page-turning kind. Waking up in the morning, in leisurely slowness, the older sister asks the younger one to run get “The Tempest,” and she reads out loud to us from a beautifully adapted version of Shakespeare’s classic. The younger sister plays peacefully with her Pretty Ponies while I relax on the bed, listening, transported to Prospero’s Magic Island. You can take a computer to bed, but not like this.

Of course I was a shameless, bookish child and that led to my doom…to be a writer…to be an observer and participant in the world.

Bring back the books folks. Otherwise, there’s a half-nelson on your children’s futures.