Literacy Mirage

Where did you get books as a kid? Did your parents buy them for you? Did you get to go to the local library and pick out  what you wanted? Was your allowance saved up so you could get that next read plus a poster and a couple wacky pencils at the book fair? How many opportunities did you have to access books and bring them home? We speak a lot about food deserts, and lately I have been wondering about literacy deserts.

Growing up I lived in very rural Maine. I do not recall where the closest non-school library was. I do not remember my parents bringing me to a library and setting me loose to choose the 2 or 3 books that looked most interesting to me. I went to school, my teacher would bring us to the library and I could check out books there, and once a year there was a book fair, but that was basically it. I remember checking out as many books from the library as I could carry all through school, and on special occasions I would receive books as gifts from my parents and my grandmother whom I have spoken of here before. My hesitance to get rid of books in my adulthood directly stems from my inability to purchase and own as many books as I desired when I was a kid.

We talk a lot about privilege now, and so my question to you is: what is your book privilege? How close is a library to you? Does the transportation system bus stop there? Is there a traveling “book bus”? Do you make enough money to buy the occasional book or is borrowing really your only option? What about digital access? I guess another question might be: do you live in a literacy bubble? Do you have resources in your neighborhood that even the next town over might not have?

These are important questions to ask. Ask them of yourself, but maybe write an email to your library system or your local city council as well. Make sure that everyone in your community has access to the oasis of reading, not just those who can afford to live under the swaying palms.