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Open Features: Harry's Boots - My Books

"Far too many children are Apping instead of reading. How do we fix it?'' writes Jacqueline Dowling, who is engaged in helping to fix the problem.

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. Which is still part of South Africa!

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, or visiting 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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