I like books, but not everyone does. In fact I know people who never read a book unless they have to. I was lucky my mother liked books and encouraged me to read, but not all my brothers and sisters liked to read, so maybe just verbal encouraging is not enough.
Children need to be exposed to books and learning before they are school age. Libraries do a good job of luring small children in and through fun and games get them excited about learning. They also lure the parents in as well.
Most libraries today have computers as well. The government says that all people in Canada should have access to the Internet. I agree, but not everyone can afford a computer or the cost of the Internet. We should all have access to the newspaper for local news, but not everyone can afford these either. Reading puts you on the lifetime road to learning. We need to have people who can learn in our ever-changing and ever-more complicated society.
Libraries function on so many levels these days that simply saying that all they need to do is dispense books is no longer true. Children between two and five learn at a rate they never reach again. This is when they need interaction and stimulation.
TV may be a good babysitter, but it is passive learning and not very focused. It has been shown that children who are ready to and are exposed to interactive learning enter their first year of school with an advantage of 3,000 words over their deprived counterparts and the others never catch up.
Libraries provide these services for free. In my case, I read at least 100 books a year and could not afford to buy this many books retail. I for one think we should let our MLAs know we expect them to fund these institutions so they can perform at the level they need to. Perhaps a petition signed by our concerned citizens might help.
Walter Jones’s column appears weekly in the Amherst News.