Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Reading

"Outside the New York Public Library" by dmcordell
Our local newspaper ran an article today about a nearby public library and its summer reading program.

Evidently one young man has won prizes for the last five years because of the number of books he completed as part of a reading challenge. While the children's room aide applauds this accomplishment and sees no problem in continuing the competition, her director wants to change the procedure to give every child a chance to win by entering participants' name in a random drawing.

Each woman makes some valid points:
"Casey [the library aide] said everyone in the club is on a level playing field because all begin and end the same day and all have the opportunity to read as many books as they wish...My feeling is you work, you get it. That’s just the way it is in anything." 
An opposing viewpoint comes from Gandron, the director, "Tyler 'hogs' the contest every year and he should 'step aside.' Other kids quit because they can’t keep up."

I am a very fast reader. As a child, I could have easily bested my peers in this type of contest - but I read because I loved it, not for praise or prizes. When reading now, I sometimes have to consciously slow myself down, to savor language and grasp nuances.

Some of my school library students devoured books, showing up many times during the week to select new titles. Others were plodders, slowly working through their reading selections. There is room in the world for both approaches to literature, especially when it comes to reading for pleasure rather than solely for information.

Are reading contests beneficial to students? Would a book club be a better choice...or would that seem too "schooly"? I'd be interested in learning how other librarians approach this issue.


debschi said...

Hi Di...when I started working in my current district 3 years ago, our school was all about Accelerated Reader. The librarian gave out monthly and yearly awards and posted official; plaques for past winners. I am NOT a fan of the AR reading incentive system for many reasons and thankfully we no longer use it. Education is not a competition. In my humble opinion, the best incentive for reading is getting kids excited about books and sharing the experience. This is our library's webpage on Promoting Independent Reading This year we're creating a Wall of Read Books. Students can guess how many books the school will read by the end of the year. Incentive maybe, but contest, NOT!

diane said...

I love your approach, Deb! My daughter commented on FB,
"'most books read' is only one way to celebrate summer reading, and that boy met all the criteria. slow readers excel at other things and can be rewarded in other ways- best book-related costume or food or essay or joke- but the point is the reading itself, anyway! as well as going to your very own library to borrow a book..."
We need to welcome and accommodate ALL readers!

loonyhiker said...

Our public library had a summer reading program this year for children and adults. I don't remember what the students got, but I know every adult who read the required number of books got a starbucks gift card for a free 12 oz. drink. We had to sign up at the beginning of the summer and submit a card with the list of books we read by a certain date. Then we were given the gift card. I thought it was an excellent way to encourage everyone to read more!

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne said...

Like you Diane, I would have easily beaten my peers in a read as many books as possible competition. But as an adult I see so many people enjoy books, who read slowly or indeed with difficulty, that it doesn't make sense to me to reward speed, or by the number of books.
Instead why not reward the child who can write a few lines on why a particular book was their favourite, why it spoke to them? reward comprehension and love of literature. That way "tyler" might still win but it's not because he can read fastest.

diane said...

It may be my cynical adult mind, but I can think of so many ways to "cheat" on a contest judged by volume: e.g. report on books you actually read earlier in the year. It would be great if kids could give book talks on their favorites or create an activity centered on a book. Maybe Tyler could be recognized for his love of reading by being designated a "book adviser" who would help other kids find good selections. Reading should be about the quality of the experience, not the quantity of volumes read.

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