Young people read more? Not really

Young people (age 16 to 29) read and use libraries more than older people, according to a Pew survey.  Millenials are “a rising generation of book lovers,” proclaimed the Christian Science Monitor.

Hold the hallelujahs, advises Dan Willingham. Young people are said to be reading “a lot,” but Pew set a low bar: 83 percent read a book in the previous year. One book per year. Of course, young people spend a lot of time reading texts, Tweets and Facebook updates, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Americans spend much more time watching television each day than they do reading. This chart  by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how Americans of all ages use their leisure time.

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It doesn’t change much for younger folks, Willingham writes. They read more for school work than their elders, but are somewhat less likely to read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

The league of sex-censoring librarians

Two Kentucky librarians who decided a graphic novel was obscene have been fired for refusing to let an 11-year-old check out the book.

Sharon Cook, an employee of the Jessamine County library, checked out The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Black Dossier in 2008 and kept it out so nobody could read it. She stuck pink and yellow highlighter tags on the pages with explicit sexual content.

When Cook went to renew The Black Dossier on Sept. 21, the computer would not allow it because of the hold. Cook used her employee privileges to find out that the patron desiring the book was an 11-year-old girl.

This would not do.

Cook persuaded a fellow library employee, Beth Boisvert, to cancel the hold so the child couldn’t get the book. Both were fired.

What complicates this is that the graphic novel in question meets no standard of obscenity by the law.

While it does contain many images of varied and explicit sexual behavior, it has been the subject of academic study. It was named by Time Magazine as one of its Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007 and called “genius,” applauded for its ability to “pluck out the strange and angry and contradictory bits that underlie so much of the culture we live and think with today.”

The League books, which are written for adults, use 19th-century literary characters in action plots. This one stars H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain and Mina Murray of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “teasing the reader in the know with appearances by Orwellian totalitarianism, Lovecraftian abominations, Jeeves and Wooster, Bulldog Drummond, Ian Fleming’s famed double-o operative, lusty Fanny Hill and a host of others,” says Publishers Weekly.

Via PW’s The Beat.

Feds target kids’ books as unsafe

Libraries and bookstores could be forced to take kids’ books off the shelves unless the Consumer Product Safety Commission delays enforcement of a law designed to protect children from toys, clothing or other products tainted with dangerous chemicals.  The law takes effect Feb. 10, reports the San Jose Mercury News:

Without a reprieve, San Jose library officials say they could be forced to close their children’s sections and send off all 700,000 volumes in them for safety testing.

Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August to protect kids from exposure to lead and plastic. The law followed the discovery of lead paint in imported toy trains and mounting health concerns about baby bottles and toys containing phthalates, used to make some plastics more flexible.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the law covers all books aimed at children under 12, including books already in libraries. All must be tested for lead and phthalate or taken off the shelves.

Many children’s books, like the Dorothy Kunhardt touch-and-feel classic “Pat the Bunny,” have pages with plastic, cloth or other material to excite young minds.

And a toddler might chew on a book for a few minutes, picking up the germs of the toddlers who’ve chewed on it before.  What are the odds of a kid getting seriously sick from Pat the Bunny? A gazillion to one, I’d guess. What are the odds that libraries will use money set aside for buying new books to pay for  useless testing?

Children’s clothing will be more expensive to cover the costs of testing the same materials again and again; retailers and resellers say they’ll stop selling children’s clothing to avoid liability.

Just repeal the law, advises Walter Olson on Forbes.

(Thrift stores and other used-clothing sellers) while not obliged to test, face liability if they inadvertently sell a vintage item with any component (the axle on a skateboard, the zipper on a size 10 jacket, the rhinestone on a doll’s tiara) that flunks the tough new standards.

Since a broad-based testing regime will normally be incompatible with the economics of a thrift store, that will leave store managers with the unpleasant choice of : 1) ceasing to sell children’s goods; or 2) predictably being in noncompliance on a lot of old items (without knowing which ones) and hoping no one ever decides to enforce the law against them.

Legislators who sponsored the bill belatedly asked the CPSC to exempt children’s clothing with no metal or plastic fasteners and children’s books “that have no painted, plastic or metal components.”  Use a staple, go to jail. It’s not clear the commission has the power to comply.

Good intentions, bad law, writes Health News Digest.