John Keefe, owner of Saratoga Book Warehouse, is pushing to give away 20,000 books to kids this year. Submitted photo
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In a time when artificial intelligence (AI) programs become authors and children read off iPads, there is an ever-growing concern to preserve that good ol’ fashioned experience of reading a book.
More than nine in ten parents of minor children recently expressed it is important their children read print books, according to a 2013 survey published by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Eighty-one percent of those parents stated it is “very important,” and an additional 13 percent stated it is “somewhat important.”
“We all have a favorite book as a child that we will never forget,” said John Keefe, owner of Saratoga Book Warehouse. On the first week of each month, his book store is allowing children to walk in and take home a free book. The goal is to give away 20,000 children’s’ books by the end of the year. “Hopefully they will find it here,” said Keefe.
Since the boom of home computers three decades ago, psychologists and engineers have researched the effects digitals screens have upon humans. The jury is still out, but some have agreed reading from digital screens lack the same tactile stimulation as a book. It’s that experience Alyssa Rose references when speaking of her involvement with the project.
“We just want to get kids interested in books, in physical books,” said Rose, both mother and project director for Saratoga Book Warehouse. Rose’s six-year-old recently bought her first book, a Golden Book at the Weibel Avenue book store. “[She] picked one up for herself and she was so excited about it. …It’s good for kids who are growing up in a world of computers and iPads.”
Picking up your first book is a rite of passage for children, and a shared experience between parent and child. Many parents appear to share Rose’s thoughts about books, and in the process, are bucking a trend earlier generations feared over advancing technology. Previous generations had worried over how the advancement of television, computers and video games would lead to children dropping their reading habits, altogether. According to Pew Research Center, reading habits are not on the wane.
Overall, print remains the dominant way Americans read books: More than two-thirds (69 percent) of people said they had read at least one printed book in the past year, versus 28 percent who said they’d read an e-book and 14 percent who said they had listened to an audiobook. But, those who have incorporated a more technological way in which to read have not abandoned books — 87 percent of e-book readers and 84 percent of audiobook listeners also read a print book in the past 12 months.
“Once you’re a reader, you’re a reader for life,” said Rose.
Saratoga Book Warehouse, located at 68 Weibel Avenue in Saratoga Springs, is open Monday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Saratoga1DollarBookWarehouse/ or email [email protected]
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.