The two stories in this article were developed as the result of comments posted to 2011…Time for a new route or an old rut? by readers in Peoria, Illinois and Sonoma, California. Both comments suggested that the dystopian digital future I portrayed was perhaps not as comprehensive as I inferred. Whether it is or not remains to be seen. Notwithstanding, I think the stories are worth telling in their own right…
A book story…
A record story…
PEORIA, ILLINOIS (Books)
Reader Mary Dene Etter reports that hard copy books are still popular with children in Peoria: “I am currently involved in a local project to put six books in the hands of all K thru 4th graders in District 150 (Peoria) schools. In a little over two years we have distributed 12,000 books. I cannot imagine anything digital replacing their enthusiasm as they anticipate having their own library.” (Photo Courtesy of Look! It’s My Book!)
I fully realize that there are programs such as this in many cities. Notwithstanding, this story caught my attention as I am a product of Peoria’s District 150 schools.
The book distribution program described by Mary Dene is sponsored and managed by Peoria’s Look! It’s My Book! and Janet Roth, President describes their efforts:
The most wonderful magic has been the incredible support that Look It’s My Book! has gotten. We are now up to seven schools, (there is a district wide poverty level of 70%); we’ve given away over 12,000 books, and have over 160 volunteers.
It has been so fun to see the children pick their books! One little girl actually clapped her hands and jumped for joy when she found out we had Fancy Nancy! One little boy came over and asked me how did you pronounce the word mischievous. I told him. Then he asked, “What does it mean?” I said it was someone who wasn’t exactly bad, but who got into trouble sometimes and liked to do things like play practical jokes. His eyes lit up and he asked “How do you pronounce that again?” I think he identified with the term.*
Mary Dene also reported by e-mail: “Many stories to tell — one from a bus driver who says he always knows when it’s been “book day,” the kids are so quiet (reading their new book). We get lots of smiles and hugs; also get to witness their enthusiasm as they discuss their newest book with their friends.”
Back in the day, Peoria, Illinois was the most “middle” of middle class cities in a cultural and economic sense. The expression, “Will it play in Peoria?” evolved from describing a rough river town on the Vaudeville circuit to describing a city that was a test market for new consumer products. It was, if you will, an island of middle class stability.
Having moved to California in 1985, I lost touch with the “realities” of my home town. Consequently, I had trouble processing the fact that the poverty level in the district is now 70% as reported by Janet Roth. A little research verified this figure. See Schools struggling to deal with rise in poverty
All I can say or offer at this point is a loud HUZZAH to the many people behind Peoria’s Look! It’s My Book!. It may be a digital age, but you have found the perfect analog response to a difficult problem.
SONOMA, CALIFORNIA (Records)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to be a vinyl record collector. However, I thought the medium had disappeared with the advent of the audio CD in the early Eighties.
Therefore, when Gina Cuclis in Sonoma, California reported that her twin daughters (Seniors at Sonoma Valley High) love listening to vinyl records, she had my attention.
What focused my mind was the reference to records. I know there is a small group of hard-core audiophiles who still reject the digital recording format in favor of analog records and spend large sums of money for playback equipment. But I was not aware that the love of records was shared, shall we say, by a wider group of more rational people.
I pursued the subject further with Gina by e-mail and telephone:
My daughters — Olivia and Elena Tennant love vinyl. Olivia gave her sister several vinyl records for Christmas. I find this very interesting. As Millennials, they are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, yet they prefer old-fashioned vinyl records.
They tell me their friends feel the same way. I find them both at times with their friends in our living room listening to my husband’s and my old Rolling Stones albums. They say the vinyl “sounds better.” They will download from iTunes some of the same music for their iPods. But then they’ll listen at home to an old vinyl record.
As a music aficionado, I was taken aback by this information–I, for one, love the CD format and was more than happy to have moved on from records several years ago.
I performed a little research and discovered that there is a genuine resurgence of interest in the record format. It is not confined to a group of young adults in Sonoma, California.
Many new releases are offered on Amazon in three formats: CD, MP3 downloads, and…vinyl records.
Elvis Costello reportedly prefers the vinyl record medium.
Vinyl records? LP Albums? Who knew? Well, it seems is if Olivia & Elena have figured it out.
For more information on this phenomenon, see the “Vinyl Links” section at the end of this article.**
* Our project becomes even more important as we look at crime. The April 10th edition of the Economist looks at the question: Are there ways to prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place? There is plenty of evidence that a lack of education goes hand in hand with criminal behavior. But few studies have established that less education is actually a cause of crime. However, now there is one. It was almost accidental, when the UK changed their law and extended the time students had to stay in school “they found a causal link between low education and crime.” They found this group with the additional year of schooling was less likely to engage in criminal behavior. The authors could even calculate that one year extra of education reduces property crime by 1-2%. And a study of American crime found the biggest benefit from extra education was fewer violent crimes. Reading skills keep children in school. Books in the home allow kids to gain those critical reading skills…that’s why we are doing Look! It’s My Book!