When my finances were at their worst I made a decision that my dwindling bank account would not prevent my son from enjoying the activities other children had access to. So I did my research and found out that the Seymour Center offered free admissions to their aquarium and marine sanctuary on the first Tuesdays of every month, that the San Francisco Zoo offered free admission on the first Wednesday and that Happy Hollow Park and Zoo had one dollar admission on the second Tuesday of the month. I happened to work at a job with odd hours so these things were often doable. Throw in a few street fairs and the beach and my son was living the life of luxury. We might have been at risk of losing our home but nothing was going to keep us from petting those pigmy goats.
But by far my son’s favorite outing was the library. Yeah, I know—that’s probably not number one on every two year olds list but my son’s quirky that way. He loves books with a passion and more to the point he loves learning. By three he had become obsessed with trains, dinosaurs, and mythology. By 3 ½ he had discovered Ancient Egypt and Evolution. He wanted to know everything about these subjects but unfortunately I knew almost nothing about these things. Yes, I had read most of the Greek Myths but I would have been hard pressed to name a Greek hero whose name hadn’t been carried on by a Disney movie or a disturbing Freudian complex. But at the library we found all the answers. I found myself reading Egyptian mythology and learning about trains that I had never before cared about. To be honest, I still don’t find trains to be all that fascinating but they definitely have it all over Bob The Builder.
Sometimes we would check out fifteen books at a time. We’d take them with us to Starbucks where we would pour over them while I indulged in the only costly vice I allowed myself (yes, that would be caffeine).
Occasionally I would splurge and buy him a book I knew he wouldn’t lose interest in quickly but there’s no way I could have bought enough books to satisfy his intellectual curiosity. I’m not sure if Oprah could afford to buy him that many books.
That’s why what’s happening in Salinas California is so disturbing to me. On June 17th ALL their libraries are scheduled for closure due to lack of funding. 51% of Salinas’ residents are Latino and 30% of them were actually born in Latin America. The average per capita income is under $14,000 a year. These are not people who can afford to buy their children books and Cosco’s 35% discounts aren’t going to change that. I think about my son and what it would have been like if I had been forced to refuse him the right to read those stories. What if I had been required to confine our reading time to fifteen minute intervals while sitting on the floor in the corner of some bookstore knowing all the while that we would never be able to reach the last chapter? What would I have done if I didn’t have a bedtime story to read him?
I promise that I’m not going to regularly use my blog as my own personal soapbox but I’m going to make an exception this one time. This isn’t a problem that is going to begin and end in Salinas. If these libraries close without the greater population becoming aware of it or rallying against it you better believe more towns will lose their access to books in the near future. On April 2nd the Salinas Libraries are organizing an “Emergency-24-Hour-Read-In.” The goal is to celebrate literacy and grab the attention of the State legislators and others who might be able to keep the libraries open. If you can attend Code Pink (one of the several organizers) has all the information you need to do so. Just click their name and it’s all there. If you can’t attend but are in a position to make a donation then contact Save Salinas’ Libraries.
I wish I could say that I was positive all this was going to be enough however it’s definitely an uphill battle. But in my opinion it’s one worth fighting.
Sex, Murder And A Double Latte---May 2005