Natalia Mielczarek reports in today's edition of the Tennessean that "story-telling hour" and the after-school and summer reading programs for children may disappear, thanks to the Metro Council's recently passed "substitute budget." Their only hope rests on Metro Finance Director David Manning's decisions about specific reductions to particular departments.
The termination of reading programs for children may be one of the crueler legacies that this Council "substitutes" for effective community support for our children and families. End reading programs, which educate and instill a love of books, and kids may stop coming to libraries. They may instead take their socialization from the streets. And reading aptitude doesn't matter so much in the streets.
07/25/2005 1:00 p.m. Update: In a passionate and reflective post to WYSIWYG Blogin, Moo_Cow links to this post and offers his views of the benefits of reading and the necessity of having libraries and schools to motivate children to reading comprehension in the absence of commitment on the part of many parents in our country. Moo_Cow does not let those parents off of the hook. He accuses them of "laying around on their fat asses."
I say, "Amen," and while many conservatives have been arguing and pushing public policy at every government level--for nearly 30 years, since the "Reagan Revolution"--to try and motivate parents rather than government to socialize their children appropriately, their efforts are failing. Some parents will not be motivated to save their children. Others, because of work and economic demands, may not have time to stimulate the motivation that an after-school or summer reading program might.
All children are entitled to opportunities to learn how to read and write, regardless of whether school is in or not, precisely because they cannot do for themselves. They depend on others for help in becoming productive citizens. And it serves the good of our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our nation when our children become productive citizens. When parents either cannot or will not support their children by providing basic reading opportunities, they are doing service neither to their children nor to our communities. That is exactly a gap that our library reading programs can fill. Metro government ought to have more of an interest in insuring that such a gap is filled.
However, the Metro Council's "substitute budget" cuts in the end might do more harm to our children and our communities--especially as they bear the strange fruit of withered public services--all in the name of lower taxes and for the sake of lobbyist groups (like Tennessee Tax Revolt) that benefit from lower taxes.