Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Return slip from Louisiana Library Commission
Jeannine Pasini Beekman Collection 2009.044.050
The July 23, 1936 issue of The Planters’ Press had some very good news to share with its readers.

“In a tiny country schoolhouse in Louisiana 100 adults are struggling with the elements of ‘reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic’ that most children learn in grammar school.  Many of these students had never attended school until two years ago and they have an average of less than a seventh grade education.  Their eagerness to learn is pathetic.  Their teacher must be a combination of a walking encyclopedia and a patient Griselda to answer all the questions they ask.”

“They have ten books to share among them.  The more fortunate members of the class are given the books to read and report to the others but, when a book is taken home, the student usually cannot resist the temptation to share his treasure with his friends and family and so it is a long time before the report is made.”

“One of the ten books is a volume of popular poems and they are learning to know and love ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, the Twenty-third Psalm, Tennyson, Longfellow and Whittier.  They are reading the story of Jean Valjean (from ‘Les Miserables’) and finding in his misfortunes some of the tragedy of their own lives.  They are reading ‘The Road Ahead’ and finding its criticism unjust because ‘it doesn’t tell the truth about America.’’’

“Their teacher walks four miles every night to and from the class and many of them walk much farther than that.  When the books come, they asked to come half an hour early every night so that they could have longer for the class.”

“There are many classes like this all over Louisiana, as reports of adult education teachers show.  In an effort to find out what books adult beginners could read, Columbia University asked the cooperation of the Louisiana Library Commission in distributing the books to the classes.  About 10 books were loaned to each class.”

“’ I believe a long step forward will be taken when our adult students are given books to read,’ wrote one teacher.  ‘We have accomplished but little when we teach a man to read if we give him nothing to read.  That, it seems to me, is like showing a hungry man food he cannot have.’”

“The Louisiana Library Commission hopes in the coming year to meet as far as possible, the needs for books for underprivileged adults.”

The Louisiana Library Commission, forerunner of the State Library of Louisiana, was created in 1920 by the Louisiana legislature.  In 1925 the Commission joined with the Carnegie Corporation to set up a network of libraries across the state.  Today all 64 parishes have a public library.  Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries to find out when Bossier Parish got its public library.

By: Ann Middleton

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