Back when I was in grade school I used to look forward to the days when the creatively-named bookmobile would show up with hundreds of books for me and my classmates to take home. The “Reading is Fundamental” (RIF) brought more than their donated books to my school. They also brought an aspect of fun to reading that was desperately needed — and it still is.
If it had not been for the efforts of programs like this one and my local library, I would never had taken as much of an interest in reading as I did. A result of which would be not being here to write columns for you to read on your way to the Sudoku.
These days though, funding for such projects and for local libraries has declined. While this is not surprising given the extent of our economic woes, it is nonetheless a serious problem. According to RIF’s website, a whopping 40 percent of fourth graders do not achieve basic literacy levels.
An obvious factor in this deficit is the lack of access that many children, especially in poorer areas, have to books. For now, bookmobiles and programs like RIF can help bridge that gap, but as I noted earlier, support is dwindling.
When faced with the bleak economic situation, some libraries have no choice but to leave their bookmobiles to rust. One such library in Lyndonville, Vermont had to give up its bookmobile — one of only a handful left in the state — when it died due to replacement costs.
With the cost of a single rolling library estimated to be just shy of $100,000, it is easy to see how price can be a definite factor. To be honest, I initially thought that the $100,000 could be better spent elsewhere.
But bookmobiles do so much more than just pull up to a school and drop off books. You have to remember that kids are like animals. They respond positively to big colorful objects that give them things. If those things happen to be books, all the better.
Many libraries use bookmobiles to bring librarians and other like-minded individuals to the schools themselves so they can put on story time activities to further engage children in reading. I know my own hometown’s library system operates a bookmobile that does just that.
In the end, not even a heartless penny-pincher like me can get behind cutting bookmobiles. In fact, I believe we should be putting more money into our libraries and reading programs in general.
While I doubt a “save the bookmobiles” movement could get as much attention as KONY 2012 or Occupy Wall Street, I do believe it serves an even more important ideal. If you do not want the 1 percent to dominate the country, educate the 99 percent.
If you have ever seen the film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” or seen the numbers, you know that the education system in this country is broken, especially at the grade school level. If the school systems cannot educate the next generation, the burden falls to programs like RIF and your local library. If they fail, it will be in the public’s hands — and we know how that usually goes.