Maxine J. Bersch-Lovern
Just a few weeks ago I finished reading Steve Hale’s book, TRUTH DECAY. (RIVERSTONEGROUP PUBLISHING) It is a most disturbing book and one which I wish all church librarians would place on their shelves, and put a copy in the hands of their pastors. The sub-title is The Erosion of Traditional Values in American Culture. The author makes no bones about where the responsibility for this condition of society lies, and names our churches. He spells it all out and I leave it to you to get the book and read it, then you will see the necessity for taking action. (There is another book out now with the same title, but a different author. Please note the author’s name here and the publisher)
As church librarians we are in the best possible location to offer a remedy. I have notified my National Storytellers League that we need to make it national policy to place public schools as a priority in our programming. We are a service organization and therefore the schools can afford us, for we do not charge anything for our services. That being said, now if our church libraries would all start a story time just like public libraries do, but for our individual congregations, then we have the perfect place to be influential in the instilling of traditional values while the children are still young and have not been robbed of all their innocence as they assuredly will be in the public arena. I have been urging this since 1978 and thank the Lord there are many church libraries with the story time and have sent me letters and pictures! However, I want to say this to any who are not including this, you are finding a need to reach out to the young mothers and fathers in your congregations, and I say, have a story time and they will come running.
We can be the antidote, for Jesus said that the person who heard his sayings and did them was like a wise man who built his house on a rock, and the ones who did not do them were like the man who built his house on the sand, and when the storms came the wise man’s house stood firmly, while the other one fell, and great was the fall Jesus added. We do not want to see this happening to our children and it certainly will if we allow them to grow up with no foundation in the truth. There are many churches with Mother’s Morning Out programs, as well as the nursery school and the k-12 schools. If you have those you are in the perfect place to put this program into effect and surely there is someone in every church library staff who would be willing to begin this program. I did this on a weekly basis when I was church librarian and it was highly successful. I never had a session when there were not several parents and before the year was up, the adult audience grew and some of them became tellers!
I want to quote from this book to show you the facts that are well documented and alarming to say the least. This quote is from page 28, paragraph 2, and it is result of international testing.
On 19 academic tests Americans were NEVER first or second and in comparison with other industrialized nations were LAST seven times.
Here I am skipping several test results but here is a quote that sends the chills up your spine. After showing all of the LASTS then it said that when asked if they were good at math, 68% of Americans thought they were! That is scary. But now you see where we are. This I know from personal experience, when a friend’s child was an A student and they decided to place him in the local Christian school, he couldn’t pass their third grade reading tests, and he was in the sixth grade. I tutored him once a week for a year and brought him up so that he could read past his grade! I put aside his reading books and took him straight to King Arthur, and after that Treasure Island and Arabian Nights stories. Well, it was like a kid had been eating bread and water and you put fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy in front of him. He was literally starved and had never read any of that fabulous collection of great stories for children. I followed my mother’s method for she taught me first,and as I read the material aloud and found an unfamiliar word, we went to the dictionary, discussed the meaning fully with familiar illustrations and he simply loved learning in that way. We can get them loving books and reading and we can get them wanting to read the right kind of material. If you do not have a good representation of children’s literature on your shelves, I think you should begin to build that part of the collection and leave all those adult books the way they are, for they don’t use them and the fiction shelves are the ones being read. If you do not have a children’s room apart from the regular library then make some sort of arrangement of the shelves, and make it a child-friendly place.
I assure you that all the public libraries in Dallas and the surrounding cities are not cutting down on their story times but have them for older children and a separate one for the very young. They also have a Senior program which no one wants to miss for they have gifted speakers and musicians come and the door opens thirty minutes before schedule and if you are not there waiting you will not get a seat! It seats about three hundred only, at the branch where I go and so people are lined up.
I had a friend who belonged to the “Great Books Discussion Group” at the public library and she was a deacon’s wife. I called her up and asked her if she would head up a similar type of group only under “Great Christian Books.” She said she would be glad to and I just checked the subject file and found several really good ones such as Dr. Cauthen’s biography, a modernized version of “Pilgrim’s Progress” Sholem Asch’s “The Nazarene” etc.( I found all of his books in a box of gifts that had been sitting in the back room and I saved them. They are absolutely the best Christian books I have ever read and written by a Polish man who was a Jew.) and took them over to her and told her I would be bringing her more so she could be getting ready. She began by checking her personal friends and some of the members of the public library group that she happened to know would be interested, and she was able to get about a dozen who were willing to begin and she told them all about how it would work. So they began meeting after the Wednesday night supper and it lasted until eight o’clock and she announced it at the supper, and before you know it she had the library full of people. This went on for about two years when her circumstances changed and I had no one willing to replace her as chair person.
As a Christian storyteller, I have experienced this in my church, and taught at the state and national levels, I can promise you that the parents will love it and respond to it. I have many letters in my file of people who took my class and then went home and did this in their libraries ! I also have received several phone calls from pastors who took my class and went home to teach it to pastors in their ecumenical groups, and their own associations. This is not something out of my own head, for we know that libraries all over America all have story time and it is reasonable to expect that our church libraries would be the very best story tellers of all! This is my suggestion for attracting the younger generation to the church library, and I believe a book discussion group involving both men and women is feasible for the church library.