Living in TVLand

Testimony to the Montgomery County Council

CIP Hearings, 5 February 2002

by Paulette Dickerson

When I was a kid, I lived close enough to the local library to walk there whenever I pleased. I could check out books, order new ones from interlibrary loan, study, or go into the adult stacks from which I was forbidden to check out books but which I could roam at will.

I could do all of this because the Mark Twain Branch of the L.A. Public Library was only a few blocks from where we lived. I didn't need to get permission (most of the time), I didn't need a car or bus or bike to get me there and they didn't keep bankers' hours so I could go after school and on Saturday, too.

Of course, I grew up in an ideal time for a kid to be a kid in Los Angeles. I lived in the kind of neighborhood that might have been in a Sixties sitcom. In TVLand, I was surrounded by books.

It turns out that it may not be "bad" schools that cripple children or "good" schools that give them the edge. After all, kids spend the bigger portion of their lives outside of school walls. According to studies done at Johns Hopkins University, it is the loss of skills in the summer not the poverty of teaching during the school year that keeps some kids from succeeding.

By looking at reading skills, the researchers -- Alexander/Entwisle/Olson -- have found that the atmosphere of books and reading and the enrichment opportunities that suburban kids routinely get from their parents and their communities help them to stay on track.

It turns out that future success in disadvantaged areas may be predicted by how many books a kid reads in the summer and by the number of library visits a kid has had. It turns out that one of the cheapest and furthest reaching educational enhancements around may be the Department of Public Libraries.

Whenever advocates have come to you asking for you to support libraries, we have talked about the wealth of opportunities that our library department provides the community. We talk about the summer reading programs and "Born to Read", about "Booknics" at Wheaton or about "Homework Helpers" or "Linkages to Libraries" or "Teen Read Week".

And all of these things are good things but the most important part of the Libraries' mission is that libraries exist.

We can't transport every kid into TVLand where no harm ever comes but we can provide more places where the blessings of knowledge and wisdom can be found.

We can build more libraries.

Paulette Dickerson P.O. Box 598 Kensington, MD. 20895-0598
Private Citizen / Library Advocate

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Send comments or suggestions to:
E-Mail: "pdickerson (at)"
Paper Mail: Paulette Dickerson, P.O.Box 598, Kensington, MD 20895-0598, USA

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