As I was perusing my blogs this afternoon, I came across a post on AbeBook's Reading Copy Book Blog talking about a blog post they'd read regarding SABAM (a Belgian responsible for collecting royalties money) trying to collect royalties from libraries every time a volunteer reads a book to a child. Yes, you read that right. When a volunteer reads a book that the library purchased, they want the library to pay royalties on it. And it's not like these volunteers are doing large production readings. No. They are reading to children at a library story time.
I know that I'm not in Belgium, but it still makes my blood boil. Yes, in this digital age it's important that writers, musicians and other members of the arts community don't get screwed. But stopping a library from reading stories to kids to foster the love of reading? Give me a break.
Don't they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot? For some, this story time is their introduction to books. It's where they learn to love the written word and, hopefully, to become addicted to it. As the writer at Reading Copy points out, these are kids that will grow up to be not only lovers of books, but purchasers of books. In 15 to 20 years, and beyond, they will be spending their money on the latest sensation, anxiously awaiting the smooth feel of the cover, the weight of the pages within. But SABAM is looking at today instead of tomorrow.
And, as I pointed out in my comment, it's more than just the money that the kids will spend by becoming bibliophiles. Reading to kids, particularly from a young age, fuels the imagination. Science Daily pointed, in an article from 2008, to a review in the Archives of Disease in Children. The study concluded that children that are read to by their parents in an interactive manner are more likely to be better prepared for learning in school. It speaks to describing the pictures, talking about the story and explaining things the child doesn't understand. Now, I'm not sure about others, but the librarians that do story time around here read in exactly that manner. So I'm going to extrapolate that it would work with volunteers reading to them as well as it does with their parents' reading to them. Which makes these readings beneficial in many ways.
And I know this from experience that reading to kids helps kids be ready for school. We've been reading to my eldest since he was born, thanks in part to Books from Birth (though, with the bibliophiles that my husband and I are, chance are we would have had quite a few books anyway). We started bringing him to Story Time at our local library from the time he was 2 1/2 years old. (My youngest started coming about then too - at two weeks old.) My eldest was reading by the time we started going to story time. He recognized words that a kid his age usually doesn't. He's surprised teachers, librarians and other adults (including some of the ladies at church). And right now, in kindergarten, he's reading at a 4th grade level. I am convinced that if it weren't for the books that were read to him, and the way they were read to him, he wouldn't be such a fantastic reader.
As I pointed out in my comment, it's not just about being prepared to reader either. Libraries open up a whole new world of things for kids to learn and explore, and story time helps them on the way to that. My boys have heard stories about animals hibernating in the winter (including bringing their own teddy bears to put to "sleep" for the winter), about apples and how to make apple pie. They've learned about different holidays outside of their own religion, and about famous people like Martin Luther King. They've learned folk tales from other lands and stories from their own heritage. Hearing stories of dinosaurs has made my youngest want to seek out more information about them. Hearing Blueberry Girl be read made my eldest seek out other books by Neil Gaiman. The stories that they've heard at the library have broadened their minds, sometimes to places I would never have thought to go with them. And I don't regret it in the least.
Honestly, I think that what the SABAM is doing is far from stopping criminals. Instead, I believe that it borders on the criminal itself.