Tuesday morning seemed ordinary enough. I got my oldest off to school, fed and dressed my younger two, and packed them into the car for the weekly drive to Story Hour at the library. My toddler excitedly pushed the handicapped-accessible button to open the doors, we walked in, and I caught a fleeting glance at a poster on the wall across the building.
My eyes aren't the best, but I can recognize a set of Little House books anywhere and from any distance. I scurried over for a closer look.
Yes, it was those familiar gingham covers all right -- with the words PIONEER CLUB emblazoned above them. Am I the only one whose heart beats faster in excitement at any unexpected Laura sighting in my everyday environment?
I couldn't stop thinking about it throughout Story Hour. What do they do in Pioneer Club? Could I come help with it in any way? Should I? After all, with three little ones underfoot, I have to be far more protective of my time than I used to be.
By the time Story Hour had ended, my decision was made. I approached the librarian and asked about Pioneer Club.
"Well, I thought we would read through the Little House books, and do some activities to learn about westward expansion," she began. "But no children have ever showed up."
My heart stopped beating for a moment as I processed those words.
No one showed up? Not one child saw that poster and felt the same excitement that I did at the thought of a Laura club? Not one parent saw that poster and forced their child to go because they loved those books when they were children so by Jove, so will you!?
I find this overwhelmingly sad. Children love Laura's books -- how could no one show up?
And then I started thinking. 15 years ago, when I established a Laura website, children wrote all the time. Children participated on message boards and left messages in guestbooks. They emailed with question after question about Laura. Although I have essentially abandoned that website, people still email from it, and people still wander onto the message board. But rarely a child. I hear from grown women who love Laura all the time... but almost never do I hear from a child anymore.
Camp Laura this summer seemed like a fabulous idea. And it was. But I was surprised at the low registration numbers. Where were all the Laura-obsessed children? We only found a handful.
Are children truly losing interest in the "Little House" books after eighty years of popularity? Have the "Little House" books changed from being books for children to being books for women? Or are these instances purely coincidental?
If so, why? Is it that the books aren't being introduced much in schools now due to government policies filling so many hours of the day with mandatory tasks that there isn't time left anymore for reading and enrichment? Is it that society has changed so much in recent years due to technological advances that children can't identify with the Little House characters anymore, or has our fast-paced world caused children to feel that days gone by are too dull to be worth reading about?
What do you think? Will "Little House" ever be in danger of going out of print due to lack of interest and sales?
May I never live to see that day.
P.S. I suggested to the librarian that we might try to resurrect the club in February with a party for Laura's birthday. So if we do... how do we get the kids to show up??