Author Courtney Milan once suggested that “Libraries are the future of reading.” At first, one might be tempted to take this quote with a grain of salt. She is, after all, an author. To those of us who are literarily-inclined, the concept of a place where one can borrow books for free is comparable to free food for most sane people. In a way, they are both forms of sustenance: one sates your stomach and the other feeds your mind. This bias should be noted, but it doesn’t make Ms. Milan wrong. Libraries are the future of reading, especially where our children are concerned.
In this day and age, it is easy to overlook an issue as insignificant-sounding as child literacy. Economic strain, terrorism, and environmental decay all seem to take the center stage whenever we turn on the news. Technology has burgeoned, causing some to question the value of the written word. Yet I believe that reading is just as important now as it ever was.
First and foremost, reading is a gateway to learning. While this may sound like a tired cliché, one should note that the platitudes that stick around are the ones with the most truth in them. Reading forces you to expand your vocabulary and to think new thoughts. Beyond the practical knowledge that books can confer on us, it teaches us how to communicate, and more importantly, how to understand one another. When this learning is inculcated at such a young age, it provides the foundation for empathy, as well as compassion for all mankind.
However, it can be difficult to get children reading. It only takes a few tricky or boring books in a row to turn the child off of reading forever. It seems the simplest way to raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading can be fun. And that means finding books that they can love, giving them access to said books, and letting them read them. In order to better facilitate this process, the Ellicottville Memorial Library devotes its summer to running the Summer Reading Program, designed to boost child literacy at all ages.
Beginning in July, every Tuesday at one, the library will feature a variety of events to excite children about reading. This year’s theme is “Every Hero has a Story.” While this may at first conjure up images of bespectacled, caped superheroes (which I’m sure will be present regardless, it is a children’s program), the true focus of theme is far less tacky. It encourages kids to be their own heroes, and provides historical and real-world examples to bolster this idea.
For example, on July 7th, the library will host “Charlie and Checkers,” an educational comedy duo. This pair aims to tell the story of Charlie and Checkers, two volunteer firefighters, and teaches children important lessons in fire and home safety by encouraging them to become “safety heroes.” Through live demonstrations and several magic tricks, these two entertainers will emphasize not only safety, but the importance of knowledge in general, and how the library can give them the tools to be any type of hero they would like.
Another such event is being hosted on July 14th by Susan Avery called “Superhero Foods.” This program is geared towards eating healthy, and urges children to find more information on the subject within their libraries.
Beyond the practical knowledge that kids will gain from these events, the reading program serves a more subtle purpose. It allows them to get acquainted with the library itself, and a staff that can direct them to the books that they will really enjoy. The library possesses a vast wealth of information, and navigating it can be difficult without a little help. In our information age, a skill as simple as being able to find the right information can prove to be invaluable over a lifetime, and I implore you to let your children take the time to learn it.
When asked how to make our children more intelligent, Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of imagination, and in particular the influence that books can have on it. This summer, I would ask that you do the same for your children so that, together, we can build a better tomorrow. For any questions concerning the Summer Reading Program and its upcoming events, please direct your inquiries to Laura Flanagan or Becky Conolly at the library, phone number 716-699-2842.