Imagine sharing a book with 829 other…children
When I was a child, I was fortunate in that I had books which were my own.
In fact, although it was true for some things like encyclopedias, I don’t remember sharing books with my three siblings, unless we specifically “loaned” one of our books to someone else.
I feel like I always had books that were mine in my room. I still have some of those self same copies in our library.
I’m guessing some of my readers had that same situation.
Having books was empowering.
Now, picture living in a poor neighborhood.
Your parents want you to be able to read books. Through a lucky break, you have $5 to spend. Let’s say you won a writing contest at school.
Your parents would take you to your neighborhood bookstore…but there isn’t one.
Your local food market, not really a grocery store, doesn’t carry books.
There is exactly one place you can get books…the dollar store.
They are mostly cheap reprints of public domain books that will likely fall apart in a year (or “remaindered books” that didn’t sell).
You remember seeing a copy of Treasure Island there last time your family bought a box of cereal.
When you get there, though, it’s gone.
There isn’t a single children’s book available.
A recent study by New York University, reported in this
found that in Anacostia,, a poorer area of Washington D.C. there was one children’s book available to purchase per 830 children.
The study also found that even “borderline” poverty communities had many more books than those with high poverty rates…and middle class neighborhoods had many, many more books.
As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore owner, I can tell you that books are expensive to sell…especially cheap versions. You are paying rent for the space under that book, and it isn’t a small amount of space.
Books can also be service intensive (which also costs money). When you are buying a jar of pickles, you have a pretty good idea what you are getting. You don’t need a clerk’s help.
Books are different. It can easily take ten minutes to sell one book.
Now, there are three things that might be alternatives to having books for sale in your neighborhood.
One is your public library. That can work…but there aren’t a lot of public libraries in poor neighborhoods, and they have limited number of books…you might be on a waiting list. You may also need an address in order to check out books, and not everybody has one. You might be able to get books from your public school library, but again, it might not have many copies. As part of an educational project, I spent some of my childhood school days in a public school in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in New York, which is a poor neighborhood. There weren’t a lot of books available for kids there.
Another is buying over the internet…but you probably need a credit card (or debit card) for that, you need that address…and you need a safe place to receive mail.
The third one? E-books.
Yes, you need something on which to read them…a phone, and EBR (E-Book Reader), a tablet, a computer.
Access to those may be more available than you think.
You might be reading public domain e-books on a computer in a public library, but it’s somewhat of an option.
Non-public domain e-books can usually only be checked out by a limited number of patrons at a time.
E-books are of the better options…but I have to say, the study was discouraging.
I gave away a Kindle through this blog a while back (with readers helping select a child to get it), and I’ve donated one, and both of those felt great! However, that doesn’t make much of a difference.
Hm…maybe I’ll do a giveaway of a subscription to
That would let a child read books like Harry Potter…and I could certainly do a month of that pretty easily (although they would need an e-mail address). I’ll think about that one.
Shopping using AmazonSmile and designated a children’s literacy promoting organization as the beneficiary of the half a percent of the money you spend donation from Amazon.
Still, we have to be grateful for the opportunities we’ve had. The divide of book availability based on income levels appears to be widening, at least in terms of physical books. I do think e-books can help…but I can’t help being sad about it and wanting to do what I can to help.
What do you think? Did you have your own books as a child? Do you have a favorite charity that gives books to underprivileged children? Do you think my giving KU subscriptions makes sense? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.
Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!
All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.