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WARNING: Reading Can Seriously Damage Your Ignorance

Yesterday Tammy and I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dan Spalding and Roger Grossman of for Kensington Digital Media's show, "IN the Know" <insert shameless plug here> (it airs this morning, 4/14/23, at 9:00 AM and tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM). We're thankful for their attention to LITE and the people it serves. One of the questions was about the library we rebuilt and reimagined in the Kosciusko County Jail. It was a "softball" question lobbed at us about why its existence is important.

The more one reads, especially things which are uncomfortable and make you think, the more your mind expands. Exercising our minds is every bit as important as exercising our bodies. And the results are the same; the parts we workout grow and get stronger. The ability to think critically is a key piece in navigating everyday life for all of us. Add in the hurdles, roadblocks, and challenges those leaving incarceration face and it's vital; in fact, it might be the most important skill they'll need. Detailing these challenges are for another blog post however.

Reading can take you places no other media can. Sure, I can get lost binge watching the latest series on Netflix. But does that exercise my mind? Or is it merely an escape? When I read a great book, I am pulled into its story and characters - whether fiction or nonfiction. And you cannot mindlessly read; you may not feel like you retain what you've taken in, but you had to engage and think to process the letters on the page. Over time, you will begin to select items which stimulate your mind and begin to retain what you're reading. My brother and I weren't readers as tots, but Mom read to us constantly. And then we had a wonderful librarian in elementary school at Sussex Avenue in Morristown, NJ. Mrs. Wasserman encouraged us to read books about sports and our favorite athletes. Before long she began to suggest fiction about young athletes, then just about young people, and before you know it we were hooked! Now that is called indoctrination. I'm forever grateful for her "indoctrination" because it made me open to all sorts of ideas and helped me process them.

The Kosciusko County Jail library and its library cart are the connection our jail residents crave. When LITE launched there were about 30 books in the "library". It now has a rotating inventory of around 4,000! Our people recommend authors and genres to one another - and us. I have a group of men working their way through Steinbeck's works as I did during the early days of the pandemic. When I accompanied Tammy with the cart last week men in two different blocks engaged me about these books. "Wow, not much has changed since he wrote Travels with Charley have they?" said one. Another observed, "You told me In Dubious Battle would be depressing, and you're right. But you know what? It's still going on - I work in the RV industry on the outside and it's not really much different when things aren't booming there." Whew. I highly recommend both of those books by the way.

What's been amazing to see though is the the practical books our people ask us to gather. Celebrate Recovery Bibles and workbooks, financial management and budget workbooks, mindfulness titles, law books, and those which help them understand mental illness and substance use disorder. We let them keep those by the way.

The best comments I hear, aside from, "Thank you", are those like..."I hated reading growing up and now I love it." "You now, I started reading to pass the time and now I want to write about what I've gone through". Edifying. Freeing. Life-giving. That's why the library is important.

When the weather turns nasty again next week here in Kosciusko County why don't you turn off the TV and visit my friends at online or in person? Select something you think will be interesting and dive in. Then, take a selfie with the book or just a pic of the cover and post it on social media to show others.

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