Several years ago, while receiving a prize for his achievements in science, a learned man from a humble background was asked to reflect on what might have been instrumental in his youth in inspiring him. His reply: his parents' support, good teachers and, of course, the public library.
Author Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize author, wrote that, as a very young girl, she worried that she would soon exhaust her family's collection of literature, and then she learned of the public library.
I share the scientist and Eudora Welty's devotion to the public library and have ventured to foster this interest in my four children. On each child's fifth birthday, we began the day with a expedition to the library to get their own library card. Having passed the previous weeks neatly practicing printing their first and last name on a 5-inch line, they rose to the occasion. It was a different library clerk each time who witnessed the painstaking task of actually printing the name on the card itself, but the dignity of having one's own public library card was never lost.
When my children ask what I did in the summers, I recall bike rides to the library where the hot, humid days in a Midwestern city could be blissfully transformed into adventures in the air-conditioned comfort of the public library. I traveled to unknown lands with countless childhood protagonists--to Klikitat Street with Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy, on a "beckoning road" across the United States with Beanie Malone, to San Francisco with Katherine Forbes and her family in "Mama's Bank Account," to a summer house called "The Shoe" on Nantucket with the Gilbreth family with their 12 children, to a mythical town in California named Ithaca with Homer Macauley in "The Human Comedy," and to a faraway town called Brooklyn with a friend called Francie in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."
The children's librarian in my public library was a rotund, admonishing woman with rimless glasses who frightened small children with her constant hiss of "sh!" Fortunately, in the ensuing years, the field of library science has produced professional children's librarians who nurture an interest in books.
Recognizing that their competition is television, VCR's, video games and a technological world, the children's sections of public libraries have altered their appearance and receptions and developed innovative methods of reaching and interesting a world of young readers. Like our home computer, libraries tend to be "user friendly" these days.
The Carlsbad Library takes seriously the challenge of interesting young readers.
It is among area libraries adopting the Serra Cooperative Library System's theme of "Treasure Quest" to encourage the summertime reading habit. Not only quantity of books, but quality of books will be emphasized.
Children will keep a detailed list of the books they have read and ultimately reach the goal of "crawling through a 'pirate cave' toward the treasure chest and a prize" at the conclusion of the summer program. Several reading lists will assist youngsters and parents in selecting material. Upon completing a book, children will be encouraged to write a book report. For those who are not yet able to write reports, a volunteer will be available to hear an "oral book report."
Anyone in the sixth grade and above may sign up to be a volunteer. This innovative method of discussing a book with older children volunteers is a particularly clever way to involve several age groups in summer reading.
Volunteers can work as little as two hours a week or as much as two hours a day. Judging by past summers, the program has proven to be very popular. In addition to reaping the rewards of watching developing readers, the volunteers are feted with a party at the end of the summer.
In offering puppet and magic shows, craft projects, a jelly bean guessing contest, a clown, visits from professional storytellers and even snake and reptile sharing, the Carlsbad Library seeks to become an integral component of a child's summer.
Other libraries throughout North County will also be using the "Treasure Quest" theme in planning summer programs for young audiences. If transportation to a library poses a problem, the Bookmobile in North County is an alternative. A schedule of Bookmobile stops is available at 940-4361.
The Serra Cooperative Library System card allows borrowers to check out books from all member libraries. However, the Carlsbad Library does want to affix its own bar code number to your card if you do not live within Carlsbad and wish to borrow a book.