Recent news from Maryville that the U.S. Postal Service has decided to begin discarding undeliverable books meant for children under a program aimed at instilling the love of reading into Tennessee’s youth at an early age is both sad and disturbing.
It’s sad that these books, which were intended to be gifts to impressionable young children, will be simply tossed to satisfy bureaucratic red tape. And it’s disturbing that the USPS would choose now, of all times, to carry out this heartless policy.
Postal officials say it is costly for them to hold onto books that were returned as undeliverable, and they insist the not-for-profit organizations, who already paid once for their delivery, must also pay a return fee to get them back.
As reported by the The Daily Times last week, postal officials in Blount County have decided to crack down on the mailing practices of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which partners with the Governor’s Books from Birth foundation and other groups to deliver a new, age-appropriate, hardcover book each month to children from birth to age 5 at no cost to the family — regardless of income.
The program’s goal is to have children reading at grade level by the 3rd grade. More than 188,000 children already have graduated from the program, which has seen more than 11 million books delivered to children in Tennessee since 2004.
Now, post office administrators in Maryville want the local Kiwanis Club and other groups associated with the program to pay to get those books back.
“They are wanting to go pick those books up without paying that return fee,” David Walton, spokesman for the Tennessee District of USPS, told The Daily Times. “We can’t afford that. They are wanting to bypass that fee that most other mailers pay. For some time, they have been getting away with that.
“It’s costing us money. We didn’t change any policy. We just wised up to what was going on.”
We understand that the USPS is facing major financial problems, but we can’t believe this is the way to address the situation.
In fact, it appears to be a public relations disaster that will further erode support for the USPS in the eyes of the public and, most importantly, of those in Congress who control the purse strings of the postal service.
Instead of throwing away books, which in the right hands are instruments of know- ledge and understanding, the USPS should be working with the Imagination Library and other sponsoring organizations to come to a mutually beneficial solution to this situation.
To learn how to support your county’s Imagination Library program, or for information on how to register a child, visit www.governorsfoundation.org or call 877-99-BOOKS.