LINCOLN, Maine — Mattanawcook Academy seniors Caroline Smart and Kassie Toby love reading. They hoped to imbue grade-schoolers with that same fascination. Their reading selections, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Magic Tree House,” were set. The class plan was complete, and in the basement reading area of the Lincoln Memorial Library on Saturday, they waited.
But nobody came.
“It’s disappointing,” Toby said Saturday. “We work on our lesson plans all week to prepare and set up here an hour early. To have no one turn up is sad.”
The 17-year-old Lincoln residents since early January have been trying to run a children’s literacy program as part of earning credit in teacher Curt Ring’s service learning class at the Lincoln high school. Only once, they said, did any parents bring children by for the program.
They aren’t bitter about it, but the students blame apathy and the false sense of community created by the Internet, computers and other social networking devices for the lack of turnout.
“Everybody is in their own bubble. People don’t do face-to-face anymore,” Smart said. “I know when I was a kid, my mother would have been all over a program like this, but parents today don’t bring their kids to things like this as much anymore.”
Assistant Librarian Carol Johnson said she didn’t know why the students’ program has drawn so little attention. The students circulated notes home to all parents of pupils at Ella P. Burr School and fifth-graders at Mattanawcook Junior High School of Lincoln, posted fliers around town and had notices of their activity printed in the library’s bulletin and a local weekly newspaper.
“They have been trying everything they could,” Johnson said.
Community programming, however, is a hit-or-miss proposition, Johnson said.
“Something you plan for just a little crowd sometimes just explodes, and sometimes something that you think will draw a big program just won’t go off,” she said.
Mattanawcook Academy’s service learning program has had students engaged in several community-helping activities. Most recently, students have been mapping the names, dates of birth and death, and siting of gravestones at all town cemeteries to help town government offset a lack of detailed records. Aside from the sharp memory of Hervey Clay of Clay’s Funeral Home of Lincoln, the town has an incomplete record of who is buried where in its cemeteries.
Smart and Toby were already community-oriented before they took in the class taught by Ring, a Lincoln Town Council member. Besides being honor students, both do volunteer work at their churches and work part-time jobs, they said.
They plan to keep trying to make their project work, they said.
“One thing Mr. Ring said was that we can’t cure other people’s apathy,” Smart said. “He said if we gave up, we would never forgive ourselves.”