Why I Hate Summer Reading Programs | Giftie Etcetera: Why I Hate Summer Reading Programs

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why I Hate Summer Reading Programs

It's probably not a surprise to my Loyal Readers that someone with a paper planner loves the written word. 

In my household, we take reading very seriously.

For example, I read almost every night. I earned a perfect score in reading on the ACT during high school. I've drafted two novels and am mid-way through a third.

My 4th grader reads way above level and reads for fun all the time! He brings a book everywhere. He almost wept in pleasure when the newest Percy Jackson arrived at the local library. He spends his pocket money on books for his Kindle.

My mantle is even a shrine to Harry Potter. 

off topic, parenting, school, homeschooling, harry potter, harry potter mantle

But every summer, the library does a reading program, Scholastic does a reading program, or the bookstore does a reading program. 

Then the local schools "challenge" the kids to log their reading as part of the contest. Sometimes, schools even require participation in the contest.

off topic, parenting, school, homeschooling, library, summer reading, scholastic

I hate it!

If a kid WANTS to compete in a "who can read more" reading contest, that's cool. I get why libraries and book stores might create these summer reading contests and they are fine with me as an optional program. A self-motivated kid is going to be an enthusiastic reader.

If a kid is a reluctant reader, he NEEDS to be forced to read. For my going-to-2nd-grader, mandatory reading is a wonderful thing. Still, logging is excessive. I say make life simpler and just say read for 20 minutes before bed.

But for the high achieving reader who reads for pleasure all summer long, logging makes reading a chore! Logging causes resentment.

Planners understand the feeling. We log stuff all the time. We might log while we are trying to learn a new routine (say, logging exercise all month) or reach a goal (say, logging cups of water).

Eventually, we burn out on logging.

But for a kid who picks up a book for fun, checking the start and end time of reading and walking over to the fridge to find the log and writing down the time and falling asleep book in hand so not knowing the time and getting stressed about losing the competition and being required to read...well, you can hear the overwhelm in his thoughts, right?

Schools are so overworked and have to make choices for the majority of kids. I get that.

In this case, however, they are demotivating reading in natural readers. They are ruining a great attitude and tradition. 

They are stealing away the pleasure of a good book and a glass of cold lemonade on the front porch. 

I say parents speak up to change that trend. Share with your friends on Facebook and let them know that reading logs should never be mandatory.

Lemonade and good books all around!


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Tubbs said...

I worked in a library that ran one of these. We just counted the total number of books read on a list and answered questions to show they'd read the book. In exchange, once they'd read x number of books they got a badge and every child who took part got a certificate. The more books you read, the more badges you collected, but it wasn't a competition. For some kids reading a book was a big deal to be celebrated!

Jaime Barfield said...

Because of the accelerated reader program and having to log books for the school constantly as they came up in school, my teenagers rarely read for pleasure anymore.

Unknown said...

I agree and disagree. For my struggling reader a reading "chart" is excellent encouragement because it both provides him steady reward (he earns small rewards at various stages of the chart) and because it is a good visual to him when he says "I can't read a book!" (Of course you can, look you've read six already!)

However, programs like Accelerated Reader sucked the fun out of reading for a whole generation of kids. I don't think it was used as the creator intended, but schools put reading levels on books and many teachers insisted not just that you not read below your level, but that you not read ABOVE. Guess how many books that leaves to choose from? I say let them read WHATEVER if they will read (with a nod to checking the content). AR made reading seem like a task and it narrowed the literature available to kids. I'm not for that AT ALL.

Library programs - we don't do them. No particular reason except my kids don't enjoy it. *shrug* As long as it isn't coming off as punitive to the kids who don't participate I think it's okay. I'm not for the ones that give prizes to, say, the top 3 readers because a struggling reader (like mine) is immediately turned off knowing they won't read the most books. But to reward everyone for participating - I'm okay with that :)

Tracy said...

We are a family of readers and I completely agree with you! Schools are sucking the fun out of reading. My youngest (who is 13, going into 8th grade, and loves to write as well) is completely burned out from all the logging garbage. She is the one who falls asleep with a book in her hands and brings a book everywhere. This year however, they are "required" to read a book off a list of 12 "award nominees". And, none of these books come close to appealing to her or any of her friends. They aren't the great pieces of literature we remember as required reading (Animal Farm, Scarlet Letter, etc). They are just mediocre, period. And she hasn't read any of them. So, now I have to force my reader to read one. It's ridiculous IMO. Especially since she is a kid who picked up To Kill A Mockingbird this summer to read for fun. What happened to summer reading for enjoyment? Being required to read a few books for pleasure and bringing in a log of the names and authors?

Unknown said...

I definitely hated reading logs as a kid and I always felt it was more about quantity than quality. I say this as someone who loves to read and reads books all the time. I read even more books when I was in school and spent all my extra money on books for the most part. It's just not a good system for encouraging kids to read, in my opinion. thanks for this post!

Anonymous said...

I can see it having negative effects like that, especially if assigned in such a way that it turns into a chore...

But I grew up as a voracious reader and LOVED summer reading programs. I found out how much time I actually spent read and got prizes for doing something I was going to do anyway! However, I was homeschooled and participation was completely voluntary on my part. Nor did anyone tell me I couldn't read things (bless the public librarians who showed me where classics were...)

I now work at a library, and our summer reading program allows kids to count any time they spend reading from the beginning of the summer. It's "color in the clock for each hour" and then at 25 hours you turn it in. That seems to work fairly well.

Anonymous said...

*reading. Good gracious...

Anonymous said...

I used to love doing the reading challenge when I was a kid! All you had to do was read any six books (just one per week for the six week holiday!) Then you would get the librarian come into school and give out certificates, every year they had a different theme and you got stickers or something it was so much fun!

Anonymous said...

I love the read for 20 idea and please LET THEM CHOOSE WHAT they want to read, do not assign it. The Accelerated Reader program in my kids elementary school ruined their love of reading, and not just my boys, most of their friends. I have written a couple rants about these programs, for the most part they fail to achieve their goal.

Thanks for the great article, I enjoyed reading it :-) With a smile from Tampa, FL Carlyn :-)

Giftie Etcetera said...

I can hear in the tone of the comments that people are passionate about their books. That makes me happy (even if you disagree with me :) ).

Anna@stuffedveggies said...

I very much agree with your complaints about mandatory reading & logging. It WOULD ruin a lot of the fun of summer reading. I think public schools are really meddling into family life too much when they start filling the summers with school work.

But, as homeschoolers, we really look forward to our library's optional & fun program. My daughter gets a prize each time she reads for 3 hours (when she was younger, it was for each time she read three books). It is one of the highlights of her summer : )

Mary Wimbley said...

You have hit the nail on the head with this one.

This is the exact reason my son now hates to read. He used to love the summer reading program, but (1) AR killed his love of reading, and (2) the summer reading program at our local library gets crazier every year as far as their logging requirements for the kids' program. (They divide it into kids, teens, and adults.)

I believe you're absolutely right about getting burned out on logging. It's the same reason I quit using MyFitnessPal. And it has to be one of the reasons my son has lost interest in the summer reading program the past few years.

I'll never forget the beginning of the last school year. For his first reading assignment, he chose to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He finished it in just a few days, reading mostly by himself. Awesome, right? But...after that, he had a meltdown. He claimed that his teacher told him he HAD to read EVERY book ALOUD, IN FRONT OF ME, the way they'd been forcing him to read since Pre-K. He was in fourth grade! I was reading by myself before first grade! But of course, things were way different back then. *sigh*

Sorry for the mini-novel-length rant or whatever you want to call this comment. lol It's just that this topic really gets me going. And from what I see here, I'm not the only one. Thanks for yet another awesome post!

PS--He's starting fifth grade today. Wish us luck! We are definitely going to need it.

Anna said...

We haven't had to do reading logs (homeschooling in Congo gives you lots of control over your programs!) But I would be against anything that makes reading boring instead of fun. The contests are nice because they are optional. Kids can participate or not- generally no pressure.

Anonymous said...

it's a fascinating debate, just reading over the comments you've received people feel differently about it. We don't have a Summer reading program here in Melbourne, but we have a reading challenge during the year. All the kids get a certificate once they get through a certain number of books, but no one knows what any one read up to, it is all private. My kids love being involved as we are a reading family too. But I can see when things get competitive it could take away from the joy of reading. Thanks for linking with #mummyandus

Brita Long said...

I've been a huge reader since I was about six. I LOVED Accelerated Reader (probably because I placed first or second every year). I also loved my local library's summer reading programs. We just counted total books, and once you hit a number, like 15 or 25 or something, you got a medal. There wasn't a special prize for reading the most books or hitting the limit first--although I totally could have won both of those.

Schools reward natural athletes, so I don't see the problem with rewarding natural readers. I didn't resent the kids for getting prizes in art or sports or music. It would be hypocritical to suggest rewards couldn't also be given for things like reading.

While I do think it's okay and normal for schools to require kids to read a certain book or books during the summer, I agree with you that schools shouldn't require summer reading logs. What about kids who go away for camp, or who spend large parts of the summer visiting family? I don't think recording a log is that big of a deal at home, but it's more difficult on vacation.

Mummascribbles said...

To be honest I don't know if I agree or disagree - as a parent it isn't something I have come across yet! I guess I'll know more when he's in school but I do remember doing this kind of thing as a child and I think I enjoyed it. I might be wrong though!! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

Whitney Wagner said...

I have a love-hate relationship with these reading logs. We don't have to do them for school but we do them for the summer reading programs. I like that I can keep track of things but I don't have time to write down every single time they read--because the 6-year old doesn't really get it, and I have to do it for her. Not to mention trying to keep track of the in between times she reads. You made some good points. Thanks for stopping by to link up at Tips & Tricks Tuesday!

Tanya @ Moms Small Victories said...

I think scanning books into Goodreads helped turn my reluctant reader into an enthusiastic reader. I agree logging minutes read is boring and kills the flow but we are big fans of summer reading programs at the library. We were even visiting family out of town and kids completed the summer reading program there which gave them free books. Free books are always good! Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday linkup. Pinned to our linkup board