Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | July 12, 2016

Summer Reading Programs are Stupid.


Recently, at our beloved local library, my big girl spotted the (above) flyer for a Harry Potter Summer Challenge.  This girl is a serious Harry Potter fan!  She lives and breathes Harry Potter.  She only reads the seven Harry Potter novels (over and over again) and books about those seven novels and the accompanying movies.  She is unbeatable at Harry Potter trivial pursuit.  She was sooooo excited about this challenge.  She re-read the flyer and then asked me a question, “what grade am I in, mom?”.  Homeschoolers don’t care what grade they’re in…they don’t keep track of such unimportant information.  She is officially entering the fourth grade, but from an age perspective, she could be entering the fifth grade.  Upon confirmation of her fear that she is not in sixth grade yet, her face fell.  The Harry Potter Summer Challenge is only open to children entering grades six and up.  So…um…how stupid is that?  I bet my big girl could win the challenge.  I cannot imagine that any child has a greater knowledge or interest in the Harry Potter series than my ten year old.  But the library has decided to segregate its readers on the basis of age, recreating the outdated, now purposeless school model.  How sad.

Of course, we went downstairs to the children’s room to ask our beloved Lauren the librarian if perhaps we could sneak our ten year old Harry Potter expert into the challenge this year?  But she assured us that the teen librarian was strict about the age/grade requirements.  My ten year old teared up.  A well-meaning library assistant tried to raise my girl’s spirits by asking her if she’d like to join the younger kids’ summer reading program.  Children keep track of the hours they read each day and once they’ve reached a certain number of hours, they bring their reading log into the library where they are rewarded with a marble which they can add to one of three jugs.  Each jug represents a movie.  The movie with the most marbles at the end of the summer will be shown in the community room.  Umm…that’s lame!  My ten year old wanted to participate in Harry Potter trivia, not get marbles for reading and voting for movies!!  My ten year old declined.

I told the library assistant that we were homeschoolers, so reading is a natural part of our lives.  Just something that we love to do.  And, I may have added that I don’t believe in rewarding children for reading.  Lauren the librarian who is an absolutely lovely human being jumped in and said something (in her lovely and diplomatic way) about how we could just participate in the program just for fun.  She’s so sweet.  But we still declined and the library assistant was p*ssed.  How could we not want to participate in summer reading?  It gives kids incentive to read!  It’s free!  You get a free book!  Who wouldn’t want to do the summer reading program?

Well…us!  Because summer reading programs are stupid.  Why would we reward children for reading?  It would be like rewarding a kid for eating all of her ice cream!  Reading, like ice cream, is delicious and irresistible!  Why would we ask kids to keep track of the time that they spend reading?  Why would we want to make reading a chore, instead of allowing it to be what it already is:  the key to other worlds!  No bribery or blackmail necessary.  Just leave the kids alone and let them read whatever and whenever they want this summer.  Summer reading programs are stupid.  Period.  End rant.

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