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Librarian Blog

Save the brain

The news-brief headline in the October edition of Harvard Health Letter sure caught this librarian's attention:

"Read a book, preserve your memory."

Research published in July and earlier shows that if you're older and you are a regular reader, you can slow ordinary mental decline by a substantial amount.

But while this sounds like a real boost for publishers and authors and libraries, it turns out to be a little less than exciting because the same article notes that other studies have shown that just about any mental stimulation in old age forestalls decline.

Dance, sing, paint, do Sudoku, do a puzzle -- and read. It's all going to help keep you alert and mentally quick.

No place for idealists

Back on Sept. 1, when things governmental looked a whole lot brighter, I read a heckuva column by Pamela Druckerman in The New York Times.

Druckerman was making a very good argument for early childhood education. She cites her own experience with small children when she lived in France. There, they have what she says is a very good early childhood education/care system.

Get this: It's paid for by the government.

She wants that here because she thinks small kids who start being educated at a very young age grow up to be smarter/more useful citizens on down the line.

She's not alone in that belief. Researchers in the neurological development of children believe the same thing.

And, so does, by the way, President Barack Obama.

But, remember: This column filled with hopeful idealism was published Sept. 1.

Before real gridlock.

Before the shutdown.

Before the can was kicked down the road, the first time.

Druckerman, the president, a host of scientists -- all these people can make all the noise they want to about this issue and a vast array of other ones.

I'd say the time and place for ideals and great strides to improve the lives of even the youngest Americans, the place and time for common sense approaches, is not now or even soon and not in the United States of America.

It just takes one?

If just one parent can get a book banned, there won't be many books on the shelves at the Alamagordo High School library.

Just one parent did manage to get "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman removed from the library because she thought it was inappropriate material for her child to be reading.

Gaiman told NPR that he was surprised and baffled by the school superintendent's decision because the book has been taught for years and never met objections before. In fact, he said the book has been praised because of its stress on social responsibility.

It's not baffling to me that a parent -- just one -- could get a book removed. School officials, including teachers, are so worried about causing a fracas that they avoid teaching evolution in, for example, some Texas districts.

Worried about boys

Among many other things, librarians are worrying these days about boys not reading.

John Keilman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a piece for today that's been picked up and tweeted around about the trouble with boys and why they won't or don't read.

He talked to Peg Tyre, author of "The Trouble With Boys," and she told him that boys don't read because they think it's a girlie thing, first of all. And because most teachers and librarians are women, these folks aren't pushing boys to read. Nor are parents reading as much to little boys as they do to little girls.

The result is that boys fall behind in school, Keilman writes.

Not sure about all that.

I don't remember doing much reading until I got into junior high, although maybe I did and those memories have left the building like so many others.

We could get our son to read only graphic novels when he was a kid. I was happy he would do that. I don't think he's ever read a regular book through to the end. He's turned out great despite that.

I brought my grandsons to the library last summer, and they chose to take home the kinds of books I would have predicted: nonfiction, such as the book of weird stuff around Texas and the book of world records. I was proud they decided to take anything at all.

Students and e-mail

A revelation from Library Journal this week:

Steve Bell writes that a poll on a college campus showed students don't like to use e-mail and some won't use it. Too last century. Too low-tech. Too not texty.

Given the convenience of text-messaging, I'm not surprised.

I'm just perplexed that people, students included, can't be ambidextrous, tech-wise, so to speak.

Bell looks at this as some kind of indication that students also won't take the time and trouble to do in-depth research on projects.

Not sure that's a valid leap to make.

His underlying message, though, seems spot on: communicating at every level requires very simple systems.