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By Jimmy Higdon
 

 I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and had a good time celebrating our nation’s independence earlier this month. A recent article caught my interest in The Washington Post about leisure reading in the United States. I wanted to share it with my constituents:

 

Leisure reading in the United States at an all-time low

The share of Americans who read for pleasure on a given day has fallen by more than 30 percent since 2004, according to the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2004, roughly 28 percent of Americans age 15 and older read for pleasure on a given day. Last year, the figure was about 19 percent.

That steep drop means that aggregate reading time among Americans has fallen, from an average of 23 minutes per person per day in 2004 to 17 minutes per person per day in 2017. The data show declines for all age levels and both genders.

Reading at all ages helps empower us with knowledge, and confidence when we speak. It is essential for success in everyday life, and our libraries are there to help give us that knowledge.

As a long-time supporter of the public libraries in my district, these statistics concern me on multiple levels. Our libraries support our local communities in so many ways. Libraries offer programs to provide early childhood literacy sessions to prepare children for kindergarten. They deliver books and provide other programs for children and senior citizens. They collaborate with schools and other community organizations. Libraries support homeschoolers with materials and meeting space. They help people with resumes and job applications. Libraries are the new bridge across the digital divide, giving internet access to many who couldn’t access it otherwise.

I have been supportive of state funding for libraries in every county I represent. Nelson County received a $3.5 million bond for its library in 2006, and it was refinanced in 2016. Casey County Public Library received a construction loan of $1.8 million from the state in 2015. The Commonwealth funded a $3.7 million lease/purchase agreement with The People’s Bank in Taylorsville in 2016 for expanding Spencer County Public Library. And Marion County received just over $3 million in revenue bonds in December of 2017 for its new library expansion.

I will continue to support libraries because of the services they provide and their involvement in our local communities. Libraries are funded with state and local tax dollars. Their boards have a duty to spend these dollars carefully. Tax money spent wisely on our libraries is money well spent.

What are you reading this summer? Share with me on Facebook or on Twitter @SenatorJimmy.

Speaking of tax dollars, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the Kentucky State Treasury. One of the most unique functions of the Office of State Treasurer is overseeing Kentucky’s unclaimed property laws. The treasurer’s office oversees approximately $580 million of unclaimed property funds, which belong to individuals and businesses throughout the Commonwealth and the world. They hold them in perpetuity until someone claims the funds. This year, they returned funds to former Kentucky residents who are living in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Great Britain. They also reunited a family with money from World War II bonds purchased by a serviceman who died in the war more than 70 years ago.

I encourage everyone to visit their website, www.treasury.ky.gov, to see if you have any unclaimed property.

Lastly, I’d like to mention a free event on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the Lebanon/Marion County Career Center. The Central Kentucky Reentry Coalition is hosting an expungement information session.  Attendees will have the opportunity to speak to an attorney free of charge and learn if they are eligible to have their criminal record cleared. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.