Harry’s Boots – My Books!

by Jacqueline Dowling

Poor Prince Harry, he hadn’t even left Afghanistan before the press spun both booted feet into his mouth over certain comments. OK, he didn’t want to do the interview in the first place, but the bosses had arranged a quid pro quo for leaving him to get on with his tour of duty sans media intervention. And all he said, quite rightly in my uninformed opinion, was that anyone who pilots a helicopter or operates aerial guns, needs to have nimble thumbs – which usually come with playing video games.
And the press loved it, they set to in a feeding frenzy par excellence. Poor guy.

My friends know all too well that I am not an Apps or Techno geek, I studiously avoid those things – except in extremis, like now. Which is how I come to observe that far too many children are Apping instead of reading.  How do we fix it? Part of our answer was to form Friends of the Library, an organisation which is growing rapidly year by year, and it’s fun: it works.

We’re  slightly less nimble in limb than we were twenty years ago, but with one goal in common. Books and Reading. Last year we put more new and donated books on the shelves than came from Province, and raised R70 000 towards even more books and reading aids. Our library has been voted the best in the Platteland (not quite sure exactly where the boundaries lie, but anyway…) which is a large chunk of the Western Cape.

Each Friday our Bhuki Cafe takes over the reference section of the library for the regular tea/coffee morning. This is hugely popular, especially when we have a special guest – one of the many writers and artists living in the area. And, in case you’re thinking I’ve not heard of epublishing or Kindle, our
next guest is a local epublisher!

Our 2013 Outreach Project is aimed at encouraging young people to read. We hope to establish a regular column for young critics on the book page of our weekly local newspaper, together with a story writing competition, open to all, in three languages. We also have invited hobbyists and crafters from various retirement homes to display and sell their goods at the Bhuki Cafe. It seems to be working well and bringing in yet more tea drinkers and readers.

With provincial and municipal budgets shrinking at an alarming rate, libraries closing and books being allowed to sicken and die on the shelves, there really is only one way to go, and that’s to get the public motivated and reading. Thumbs remain an exceptionally useful tool (more strength to Harry’s) and will, no doubt, become even more useful and essential in future.

But for me, there is nothing like a good old fashioned book, smelling a bit musty probably, and slightly  soft around the edges. And until someone convinces me that Kindles float when dropped in the bath or pool, I shall continue along the paper route!


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