Saturday, June 11, 2011
People who love books: a note of caution to Summer Reading Programs
This is me at Chaucer's Bookstore in Santa Barbara, CA. I worked there for 2 years in college - second best job I ever had for the job itself, best one when you consider that I met Chris there. Bookstores are great and terrible places to work when you love books. I don't think I need to explain that.
It turns out that Cora is also a lover of books and stories and really anything that has the smallest shred of narrative attached to it. She is starting to read a little for herself, and she loves looking at books by herself, and of course we read to her. Lots. Sometimes more than we might choose on our own.
On library trips, she maxes out her card. Her Intro to Kindergarten class goes to the school library every morning and each child checks out a book. Yesterday, the boy she shares a locker with accidentally took her book home. Oh, the tears! I asked her what the title was, thinking we could find it at the municipal library, and she cried, "I don't know! I can't read that well yet!" Do you know how hard it is to try to find the title for a book that has a purple cover with a cat whose tail makes a C on it? I sincerely hope that boy brings the book back on Monday!
So, it seemed like a natural thing to do, to sign her up for the Summer Reading Program at the local library.
Except that Summer Reading Programs are largely designed for kids who don't read or whose parents don't read to them much.
For example, a child can earn a coupon for a dish of ice cream for every five books they read or that parents read to them. Cora could be earning a coupon every day, were I to fill out her sheet honestly. On another sheet, you cross out an icon for every 15 minutes the child reads or you read to your child. Every 16 icons you earn a button, at 32 you win a ticket in the toy prize lottery (there are Barbie dolls at stake!). Again, if our sheet were an accurate reflection, we could cross off at least 12 icons a week.
So, why not fill out the sheets accurately, honestly? I remember doing a March of Dimes read-a-thon one summer. I must have been about 11 years old, give or take a year. I canvassed neighbors (who had no idea and pledged x amount of money per book I would read) and relatives (who knew better and pledged a flat dollar amount). I read lots of books. Some neighbors were appalled, some quizzed me on the titles, some were so aghast that I changed the sign-up sheet so they could give a flat amount (the $5 they anticipated shelling out instead of the $50 it turned out to be).
When it comes to reporting on reading, sometimes it is better to be modest. Especially if at the same time you keep your own list, in all its lengthy glory, to show off to people who will appreciate it, such as fellow readers and grandparents!