The list of job losses keeps on growing, but for many there’s hope that they’ll come back. Except this one: the art of arcing a paper across a lawn from the seat of a bicycle is facing extinction.
The paper route as means for kids to pull together some cash is on the way out, but it gets a fine send-off in Sue Corbett’s new young adult novel. The Last Newspaper Boy in America reads like an updated, spunkier version of Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins. Boy gets paper route, boy comes out on top.
It’s just barely on top for Wil David, who learns the day he’s set to take over the route biked by his big brothers and father before him that the newspaper is ending door-to-door service. David fights the good fight, and in the tradition of great kid’s books everywhere, saves the day.
Corbett is careful to weigh that child-worthy optimism with just the right dose of reality. Perhaps the most ominous part of the novel comes in the appendix, where she starts recounting the statistics she pulled together in the research phase of the book.
Since 1994, Corbett found, the percentage of adult newspaper carriers has climbed from forty-two percent to mover than eighty-one (as of 2006). Parents are more wary of sending their kids out on the roads in a more dangerous world, corporations less enthusiastic about hiring kids. The eighteen and a half percent of the jobs still held by kids are at rural newspapers, but as those papers continue to close at an alarming rate, so too go the jobs.
It’s hard to say which to mourn first – the loss of a job that has provided generations with a good work ethic and a sense of independence or the reasons behind that loss.
Do kids still deliver papers in your neighborhoood?