Rejecting the summer reading program

Several years ago my older daughter, Caitlín, 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 our public 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 my daughter asked a librarian if she could participate in the teen reading program, the woman told her “no,” because she was not yet “in high school.” So, Caitlín 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 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 Caitlín 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. My daughter was thoroughly disgusted and simply walked away. I said something like, “Caitlín 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.

Copyright 2007, 2011 by Shay Seaborne. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Response to Rejecting the summer reading program

  1. You must visit a particular rigid branch of the library system! We have never had any problem “upgrading” the 10-year-olds to the shorter reading list. Then again, it may be because we pay those folks so much money.

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