By Lisa Fary
I ate many strange things as a little girl. Grass. Notebook paper. Lima beans. There was even the obligatory, childhood penny-swallowing incident. Despite my gastronomical curiosity, I never looked at a book and thought, “Mmmmm, I wonder what that tastes like.”
It never once occurred to me to rip out a book page and eat it. Or to gnaw on the cover. Or to lick the pages. Mom made clear to me that books were fun, but were not toys and should not be treated like toys. That included putting them carefully back on the shelf after reading and not putting them in my mouth.
Apparently, America’s children haven’t been taught the lessons about books that my mom taught me (namely, don’t eat books). Or, at least, Congress thinks this is the case.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. You’ve probably heard of this. The CPSIA was drawn up in reaction to the Chinese Lead Paint Fright-O-Rama of 2007, but like most laws passed by Congress, it’s having some unexpected repercussions, the most horrifying of which is that we’re about to lose every children’s book printed before 1985.
Under the new law, children’s books published before 1985 are considered unsafe and, a year from now, will be illegal to sell, give away, or otherwise distribute. This includes used book stores, thrift stores, and sadly, public libraries.
We’re talking about millions of books that will destroyed or kept from the hands of readers. Many of them are, presumably, no longer in print and, once out of circulation, will be gone for good.
Then there’s the damage this is going to do to our already troubled public libraries. A part-time librarian in rural Idaho looked critically this and found that her library will have to either get rid of 75% or their children’s section or ban kids from entering the children’s section.
This is nothing short of institutionalized book burning, except now the perceived threat isn’t the ideas in the pages, but the pages themselves. This isn’t going to protect children; all it’s going to do is block access to books in all but the most affluent communities, furthering already widespread illiteracy and destroying libraries and small businesses in the process.
When I look at it that way, my conspiracy gears get all greased up and going.
Congress, for god’s sake, READ the bills on which you vote. Extrapolate the consequences of vague and ambiguous policies. That’s your job.
Parents, teach your kids not to eat books, whether they were printed before or after 1985. And pay attention to what you’re buying. That’s your job.
All this when the real solution is to stop buying cheap crap made in China.
Lisa Fary’s early exposure to classic Battlestar Galactica in 1979 is largely responsible for her lifelong interest in science fiction and her childhood ambition of being an intergalactic space cowgirl. She thinks diagramming sentences is a fun alternative to Sudoku.
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