As you may be aware, the Beans and I spent about 6 weeks of this summer in the US. Not just the US, but small town America. We had a great time and saw many, many sights. One that produced lots of enjoyment and surprise for the Beans was… the Bookmobile! They were intrigued by the idea. For those of you from a different part of the world (mental or physical), you may be wondering what a bookmobile is. So, here’s a picture and then I’ll explain.
Bookmobiles are moving libraries. They go to areas where residents typically can’t get to the library. They’re an outward symbol of the American belief that everyone should have access to books. It takes living somewhere else to appreciate the joy that is the public library. After living for 6 years in countries with no libraries or few libraries with anything anyone would want to read, the Beans were astounded by the very idea of the Bookmobile. We were driving along on the way to the bowling alley when we came up on one that looked much like this one. It was fascinating to see the Beans’ reactions.
They were floored. Did I mean to say that libraries traveled TO the people? Like for free? Like so they could read there too? You don’t pay for the books or the bookmobile? It comes on a schedule?
To me, the bookmobile is a fact of life. I grew up on local libraries that were really local. They were in your neighborhood or close by. You dropped by on a Saturday and spent time reading. You were proud of your first-ever library card (kids got them at age 6 in my neck of the woods). Each week you got to return one world, maybe a pirate ship, an outer space adventure, or a mystery and you got to carefully select another. I loved the library. The Beans think that really only schools have libraries. I think they’ve been thinking I’m a bit odd because I buy so very many books. We have our own little library here, and it’s not very little.
Back in Jordan, as part of the school’s annual book fees, we were given some books that won the Prince Rashid bin Maktoum Foundation award for excellence. The first year it came with an adorable note indicating that the school wanted the books to form the “core” of a library that would be added to each year. Is it bad for me to admit that I laughed? Heartily. It was, at the time, 8 years too late to form the core of our library. At the time, we had probably 100 books in Arabic alone. Their two little books were great additions. When ButterBean asked why I found it so funny, I explained to her what they mean by it being the core of the library. Her next question was perhaps predictable. But, why would they say that? It brought about an interesting discussion. We talked about her best friend, a fairly typical Jordanian girl. We’ve visited their house a number of times. I asked her how many books she’s seen around the house. After some thought, she realized she hadn’t seen either a single adult or children’s book. That’s why they need to send us books to form the “core” of our libraries. And while I commend them for doing this, it’s both valuable and necessary, it will always be funny in the context of our house.
So, given the general attitude toward reading, the lack of libraries, and the overall feel of the region, the wonder at a bookmobile makes sense. I’m glad they got to see one as I think these moments help them identify what’s different about their lifestyle. They learn that Mommy isn’t the only crazy one. In fact, America is full of crazy people who believe that knowledge is power, it is the ticket to a strong future. Money is ephemeral. It can be gone in an instant. The same is true of possessions. But knowledge, well, that lasts a lifetime. And books can be the best ticket to another world you’ve ever experienced. So, moms and dads, buy a book. Read a book. Let your child see you reading… you’re creating their future with every word.