One of my favourite things when I was a child was going to the public library. I bloomed under the potential of all those books and the knowledge that I would be taking at least some of them home. My Mum would often tell us we had a limit of say, five or ten items and I would spend the next hour agonizing on what books I was going to check out. Would it be too quick a read? Was it funny enough? Hard enough? Would I like it? I would read the description on the back and maybe the first few pages trying to extrapolate what the rest of the experience would feel like. Usually I ended up with five books and a list of another 50 I would have to get next time.
I still love going to the library. I still bring home too many books and end up with late fines. Just last week I returned James Gleick's Isaac Newton only half-finished. I really enjoyed it...but now I don't know what happened to Newton. I can only assume he died.
Last night I went to the library because I had a whole list of books I wanted to get and I managed to get a bunch of them. Unfortunately I stumbled across something while I was there that made me feel angry and a little sad. The library has a new "Kids Bag" program where parents can go in and grab a bag that contains five books and an audio-visual item. The bags are all lined up along one of the shelves and labeled according to gender and age. What the hell? What happened to choosing books with your child? What happened to the idea that kids are actually little people who have preferences, tastes and varying abilities? Can you imagine if I handed you a book and said "Here you go. I have no idea what this book is about but it's geared towards your generation and gender so you're bound to like it." How are you supposed to learn about yourself and develop a relationship with reading if you're just handed an arbitrarily assigned plastic bag of reading materials?
If parents don't have time to even pick out the books for their little ones I can bet they aren't reading to them either. Sometimes I wonder how we all ended up doing things so ass backwards and why nobody seems to notice.