Library Column–September 29, 2005 (Michaelmas)

Monday morning at the library: a mom reading to her child, another child playing with toys, patrons at the table and at the computer, a volunteer shelving books…and the librarian sitting at her desk trying to write her column.

I think I’ll start with a few items on my ever-evolving wish list. This week we are hoping for a big gift: a used digital camera. We need an easy way to take pictures of library programs and activities. Old and out of date is not a problem!

Warm thanks to everyone who responded to my request for lightly used paperbacks for the hall collection! The shelves are restocked and there are some great new additions to the paperback collection. The DVD collection is growing, slowly, with donations. The collection got a big boost last week, however, with the addition of about 20 new educational DVDs. The Vermont Public Library Foundation (with funds provided by the Freeman Foundation) provided the money. We had a small surplus remaining from our third year grant and had a fun time shopping for a variety of materials: history, biography, sports, adventure, natural catastrophes are some of the topics covered. Enjoy!

The library will be hosting two new groups: one for aspiring writer’s of children’s books, the other for handwork enthusiasts. Call or come in for more information and to sign up for either (or both) groups.

Just finished an extraordinary book: Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn. I think I’ll just quote a few passages.

“With a single-minded competitiveness reminiscent of the California gold rush, corporations are racing to stake their claim on the consumer group formerly known as children.” (p.2)

“The advertising industry’s spin is that parents—not corporations—are responsible for preventing the negative effects of media offerings and media marketing on children.” (p.9)

“In What Kids Buy and Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids, for instance…has this to say about the relevance of child development to marketing and product development: ‘We have divided or segmented the youth target…in accordance with a wide variety of scientific research such as that of Piaget, Erikson, and Kohlberg…It is an in-depth understanding of the child consumer that provides the only real access to approximating a “winning formula” for the development of products and programs that succeed with kids.’” (p. 24)

“Cardboard books developed just for babies feature images and characters from snack-food advertising campaigns—such as an M&M’s Counting Book and the Froot Loops Count and Play Book, whose  covers are designed to replicate the products’ colorful packaging.” (p. 102)

“Of eighty-one G-rated animated children’s movies, more than half contained at least one sequence showing a character either smoking or drinking.” (p. 171)

“As an advertising strategy, undermining adults and creating chaos in the adult world may be a winner. Apparently for Kool-Aid it was. It’s a strategy that seems to shape most of the advertising, and many of the commercial programs, aimed at children today. As a cultural milieu that envelops growing children, it’s a problem. Children who watch a lot of television or movies are immersed in a world in which the adults—with the notable exception of Ronald McDonald and Cap’n Crunch—are largely absent, ineffectual, and stupid.” (p. 188)

Susan Linn has written an outstanding book. She ends with a chapter of suggestions for slowing and eventually halting the attack on children. Susan had trouble finding a publisher for this book. She comments: “Most publishers wanted me to write a ‘how-to’ book for parents.” Instead she wrote a how-to book for our entire culture. Think big!

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