Thursday, March 30, 2006

Summer Reading Programs

A few years ago my older daughter, Caitlin was "in 6th grade," but reading mostly young adult books, as she had outgrown most in the youth section. Since she was reading "teen" books, she felt she should be able to participate in the teen level summer reading program sponsored by the library. The teen program offers prizes for a much lower number of books than does the level for younger children, because the young adult (YA) books are longer reads. I think they offered a prize for every 5 books, and the "little kid's" program did so for every 10, or maybe 20.

When Caitlin asked if she could participate in the teen reading program, the librarian told her "no," because she was not yet "in high school." Cait decided she would no longer participate in the reading program. "I read because I enjoy it," she told me, "and I don't need any prizes as incentives."

The next time we went to the library, another librarian spoke to us about the summer reading program, expressing disgust at the kids who were obviously signed on only for the prizes. She said it was easy to discern their motive, as they often chose books based on their brevity--such as poetry anthologies or books of jokes. The librarian was dismayed that these kids did not seem to want to read for the pleasure of it, but were only interested in jumping as low as possible through the hoops to get the goodies.

Then the same librarian asked my daughter if she had signed up for the summer reading program, and when Cait explained why she had not--that she thought it unfair that she was reading YA books and had to read so many of those to get a prize in the little kid's program--the librarian told her she should "pick short, easy to read books, like poetry anthologies and joke books." I hardly knew what to say. Cait was thoroughly disgusted and simply walked away. I think I said something like, "Caitlin seems to think that is not a viable option," and also walked away. We have not felt the need to revisit the summer reading program topic since.


Mom of All Seasons said...

I think these types of "prize-oriented" programs should be renamed for what they really are - Anti-Reading Programs. I'm thrilled to see that your daughter understood what the librarian could not.

Gem said...

I quit our Summer Reading Program probably around Caitlin's age, when our children's librarian decided to require book reports on all the books I read since I was taking 10 home at a time, sometimes returning in 3-4 days. I knew I was reading htem -- and would continue reading them whether or not I got the little puppy pawprints across my page. The prizes were lame, anyway, lol!

Steph said...

Cait is very wise! She has already grasped something it took me 30+ years to learn. :-)

Kris said...

Bravo for your daughter! We have had experiences with summer reading programs that have been similarly disappointing. My boys read a lot, and yet put rules on their reading ("color one box for each fifteen minutes of reading!") and the focus moves from reading itself, reading for enjoyment, to fitting the reading into specific parameters.