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This Week in Freudenfreude: To Give Is Better Than to Take

All right, let's now break our streak, and do an item about good work being done by Republicans. Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) has done plenty of things that do not bring honor to him or to his office, not the least of which is supporting Donald Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election. But, outside of melodramas, even those who often do bad things have some redeeming qualities. And so it is with Lee, who has responded to Tennessee students' below-average reading skills by creating Governor's Early Literacy Foundation (GELF).

The basic idea is that kids have a lot of time in summer, and may not have much access to books, since they're not in school. So, partnering with the Scholastic corporation, and with musician Dolly Parton (and her Imagination Library project), the state sends regular packages of books to children, from birth through third grade, over the course of the summer. There are also public gatherings where books are read to children and a fleet of refitted "Book Buses" that bring books and other programming to underserved communities.

It is true that a setup like this could be used to propagandize, and to feed students a steady diet of books that reinforce a particular religious, social or political worldview. But the books are suggested by Scholastic and are curated by a panel of teachers, and they appear to be politically neutral. So, no Bobby Has Two Daddies, of course, but no All Christian Dogs Go to Heaven, either.

By the numbers, at least, the program has been wildly successful. It's enrolled 70% of the state's children, and has delivered a staggering 50 million books. GELF is only a few years old, so it's hard to say whether it's broadly impacted reading skills in the state, but the early returns are apparently promising. The site also has testimonials from students and parents, like this one:

We just wanted to say thank you for the Imagination Library program and the books our daughter gets every month! Her name is Lily and she is 13 months old. She loves to sit in our laps and listen to the books. We read each book several times a day! She turns the pages and points to the pictures. One of her favorites is All of Baby: Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler. ABC Look at Me by Roberta Grobel Intrater is another favorite. She really enjoys looking at the pictures of the babies. It has helped us as parents in naming the different emotions she has right now. It helps us to understand how she might be feeling and that it is hard for her to control all of these emotions right now. Again, we just wanted to say thank you for all of these wonderful books and the love of reading they are developing in our daughter!

So the lesson of the day is: Giving books to children is good, taking books away is bad.

Have a good weekend, all. (Z)

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