June 16, 2016
The Chicago Public Library is giving away a million books. So what’s the catch? You must be a child.
by Chad Felix
This year, as part of its annual Summer reading initiative,“Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge,” the great and beautiful Chicago Public Library is giving away a whopping one million books. Now, if you’re anything like me, you love reading in the summer, and wow, yes, you’d like to get a hold of some of those sweet, free books. I’m with you. But don’t get too excited. The one million titles—the greatest number the library has ever allocated for donation—are reserved for some special someones. You guessed it: the children.
Always the children.
Yes, the future leaders of the great city of Chicago will be the only ones benefitting from all this free reading material, receiving up to a dozen titles per child. And while you toil in the blazing heat for the money you need to buy the books you need to be happy, these fortune-kissed short-stacks need not pay a dime! Just give their word, their word that they’ll sit and read for twenty minutes each day, that they’ll put down the phone and the damn Nintendo and the tablet and spend just twenty minutes of a silence with a book. A free book, a book that costs only their word. Their word that is worth nothing.
Because children are liars. Serious liars. Now, please, before you cast judgements upon me, a fellow book-lover, hear this: I was a child once. And when I was a child, I lied. Oh, how I lied! Here is an example: Once, as a child, I slammed my hand in a drawer. In my pain, I yelled, “shit!” My mother, downstairs, called up to me, asking if I had just cursed. And I responded, I kid you not, “No. No, Mom, I did not curse.” And this was a lie—she knew it, I knew it—a lie that I, now an honest adult, have no trouble confessing. I was a liar, as a child. I lied. (I’m sorry, Mom.) Today, however, I am not a liar. I have been healed of that affliction. I, a full-grown teller of truths, only want free books. Is that too much to ask for, Chicago Public Library? Apparently, it is. Apparently I am too tall, too deep-voiced, too fully integrated into the sad world of adults to have free literature lavished upon me.
So for now, the free books are only for children. They will receive up to a dozen each, provided by Bernie’s Book Bank, upon registering at their local branch library, where they will then, one can imagine, forget them immediately, spill their juice-boxed juice upon them, tear them to shreds for no reason, or just cry—cry, cry, cry for no reason at all, thus disturbing all of the honest adults reading around them: the suckers who get their books for free but must, in the way of all adults, come back to return them, late fees in hand.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.