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EDITORIAL: Throwing book at kids

Spencer Collins is the kind of 9-year-old who’d make any parent proud. In the age of PlayStation and Xbox, he’s a voracious reader, a trait he attributes to his mother, an elementary school teacher. In fact, for Mother’s Day, Spencer, with help from his father and grandfather, built a small bookcase in his front yard, from which friends and neighbors could check out and share books — a gift his mom had said she wanted.

Spencer’s library became part of a growing trend, inspired by the nonprofit LittleFreeLibrary.org. It’s a story even government officials could love: a young boy touting literacy through sharing.

But when it comes to bureaucrats, no story is too good to slam shut. As reported by fox4KC.com, officials in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, Kan., sent a letter to the Collins family stating that the little library — perhaps 2 feet wide by 4 feet high — violated a city ordinance, and that if it wasn’t removed from the front yard, a citation would be issued.

The Heritage Foundation’s Jordan Richardson noted that the city of Leawood prohibits detached structures in single-family neighborhoods. The ordinance reads: “No detached structure including garages, barns, sheds, greenhouses, above ground pools, or outbuildings, shall be permitted, unless expressly allowed by this Ordinance.” As Mr. Richardson pointed out, the similarity in all those structures is that each could actually hold a person. Spencer’s bookcase — birdhouses are more elaborate — could not do that.

No matter, said Richard Coleman, the city’s director of community development, who told KMBC-TV that the law must be strictly enforced because “we need to treat everybody the same.” It’s just another example of heavy-handed government officials giving our youngest citizens a lesson in the power — and the lack of common sense and compassion — of bureaucracy. Think about the lemonade and cookie stand outside the PGA Tour event in Reno, run by a couple of entrepreneurial siblings, or the cupcake business that 11-year-old Chloe Stirling ran out of her house in Troy, Ill. Both operations were forced to shut down.

Big government everywhere is actively working to crush opportunities for young people. On this Independence Day weekend, we really need to think about what we are teaching our kids. Are they growing up in a land of freedom, or in a world in which they need the government’s permission for everything?

Spencer and his family are challenging the ruling on their library. If ever there was a time for a storybook ending, this is it.

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