Librarian: Top reader ‘hogs’ glory

Tyler Weaver, 9, read 63 books in six weeks to win the summer reading contest at Hudson Falls Public Library in upstate New York. The incoming fifth grader has won five years in a row.  Which is . . . unfair?

Tyler “hogs” the contest every year and should “step aside,” Library Director Marie Gandron told the Star-Post.  Over five years, Tyler has won an atlas, a T-shirt, a water bottle and certificates of achievement.

Tyler’s mother, Katie, had alerted the newspaper to his streak. His younger brother, Jonathan, 7, won second place for the second year by reading more than 40 books.

“Other kids quit because they can’t keep up,” Gandron said.

Gandron further told the reporter she planned to change the rules of the contest so that instead of giving prizes to the children who read the most books, she would draw names out of a hat and declare winners that way.

Prizes also are given to the top kindergarten reader and for best rock people (?) and coloring entries.

Lita Casey, an aide at the library for 28 years, said the Weaver boys visit the library every week year round. She estimates they’ve checked out 1,000 books in the last few years.

Changing the contest rules is “ridiculous,” Casey said.

“My feeling is you work, you get it. That’s just the way it is in anything. My granddaughter started working on track in grade school and ended up being a national champ. Should she have backed off and said, ‘No, somebody else should win?’ I told her (Gandron), but she said it’s not a contest, it’s the reading club and everybody should get a chance,” Casey said.

A few years ago, the summer theme centered on regions of the United States, Casey recalled. “Kids were supposed to read a book on each section of the country,” but some found it boring and dropped out. “Tyler read at least one book on each of the 50 states,” she said.

One commenter suggests that Marie Gandron has hogged the library director job long enough and should “step aside” to let someone else have a turn.

Harrison Bergeron, call your office, Instapundit writes.

 

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Comments

  1. The thing is, 63 books isn’t even that impressive. (Neither is 40)…when I first saw these headlines, I assumed the kid was reading hundreds of books. The problem isn’t that this kid is an especially big reader (heck, I used to read 5 or 6 novels a day at his age…) but that he’s apparently the only kid in his town who likes to read.

    • It’s a 6-week club, so that’s over 10 books a week. Keep in mind that children’s books have actually gotten *longer* in the past 15 years, since HP came along–before that, no one would publish a children’s book that was over 200 pages.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        I suspect that older books were acceptable. So Hardy Boys would have been okay. Boxcar Children for younger readers. Berenstain Bears for still younger.

  2. Elizabeth Bartley says:

    This is what second (and third, etc.) prizes are for.

  3. Why not diversify the awards — for example, one for ‘most books’, one for ‘most improved’, maybe a group award for ‘The 20+ club’ — there are a lot of ways to spread out the awards without penalizing the two kids who actually like to read.

    • I agree – they could have a champ for each grade and then a grand champion, or have champs by category of books (who read the most biographies, adventure, nonfiction, etc). They could also do a page number champion if that was a different person. I’m OK with arranging the system so that lots of kids are encouraged to participate and there are several ways to win, but the grand champ may still be the same person every year.

  4. I understand that the POINT of the program is to encourage children to read over the summer, and knowing this kid is going to get top prize each year might discourage some slower readers, or kids who are super-competitive. It makes sense to change the program so that you can only win the grand prize once.

    BUT. Calling the kid a “hog,” when you’re a public employee, to the press? Is very unprofessional. She should apologize. These children and their mother did nothing wrong.

    • Should Michael Jordan have been forced to retire after winning 2, 3, 4 NBA Championships with the Bulls? Should Joe Montana have been forced to retire after winning 2, 3, 4 Super Bowls with the 49ers? It’s not this kid’s fault if he has no real competition… He won the contest set out before him, he’s earned his prize.

      That being said, there’s nothing wrong with smaller 2nd Place, 3rd Place, etc. prizes, either…

  5. If you want kids to read more, it seems silly to change the rules to award prizes based on something other than quantitative criteria. A viable alternative would be to have different categories for the various grade levels, and/or keeping track of pages read rather than number of books.

    At any rate, divorcing awards from accomplishment sends the wrong message, and essentially turns the summer reading program into a chance-based system, like a lottery: “It’s not my fault I didn’t win; I just wasn’t lucky enough…”

  6. If it’s not a contest, then why are they giving out prizes for the most books read? Which I think is a fine thing to do, but this Gandron person is trying to have it both ways.

  7. Reading the story, I’m surprised at what an elaborate summer reading club they’ve been running. They quiz each kid about each book?? I would have simplified years ago.

    • cranberry says:

      I read another article about this. They quiz each kid about each book because a previous winner turned out to have lied. She claimed to have read books she hadn’t read.

      • “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

        Back in the days when I did Summer Reading Club, I don’t remember if there was a prize for Most Books Read (at least, I never won it). If there was, not winning never bothered me. (We did get stickers – horses or monster parts or something to fill out a scene on a folder – for every five or ten books read. I liked that part but would have read even if there weren’t stickers)

        I don’t know. The response to “I feel bad because I didn’t win for reading most books” should be something more along the lines of “try harder next time” not “We’ll prevent ANYONE from winning so no one (or everyone, depending on how you look at it) feels bad.”

        • Mark Roulo says:

          The kids who aren’t in the contest may still be reading.

           

          My public library has a summer reading contest, too. All the kids are in one big pool. And every book read counts as “1”. My child refused to play when he was seven or eight. He had figured out that the kids (some younger, granted) who were reading Berenstain Bears books could and would get to 100+ easily over the summer. He was reading Harry Potter (slowly … one chapter per day) and it was clear that his chances to read 100 books were nil. So he kept on reading, and refused to enter the contest. No hate towards the winner, but why choose to play when you know winning is impossible?

           

          I can see some librarians freaking out over this, but I don’t think they should … the reading was happening, even though he wasn’t playing their game.

          • We never do the library summer reading club, despite the part where I am a librarian and we are there every week (I no longer work at the public library, but at an academic one). We just never did somehow.

            Anyway, if I was running it and we were in a situation where we had to quiz the kids to make sure they were actually reading, I’d change the structure. I’m more in favor of fun stickers and the kids of thing where the kid puts something on the wall for each title. My niece was super-proud of her medal that she got for 20+ books or whatever it was. There are lots of options.

  8. I second the comment that the library director should step down to let someone else have a turn.

    This kind of anti-meritocratic nonsense has been going on for decades. My younger kids’ (now late 20s) ES started an annual Field Day, where both individuals (by grade and sex) and (balanced) teams competed for prizes. There were many events; baseball skills, soccer skills, running, various strength (sit-ups, rope climb, push-ups etc) – both general fitness and sport-specific. The first year, one boy won all the baseball events, my son won all of the soccer, running and strength events, and my daughter won all of the strength and running events. The following year, at the end of the day, the PE teacher announced that no one would receive more than one ribbon,(regardless of how many events (s)he actually won) The next year, my kids were “sick” that day and we went downtown to visit a museum.

  9. Stacy in NJ says:

    The librarian is horrible. Having said that, the kid’s mom really should be looking for alternative challenges for him (and, perhaps she is) because this really isn’t a program that’s going to challenge or stimulate him if he’s already won it 4 or 5 times. They do need to move on to something more appropriate, but the librarian should have gently suggested an alternative or kept her mouth shut.

    • Most summer reading programs aren’t that challenging… it’s just… something you do, especially if you’re a family of heavy library-users.

      And, as a librarian’s wife, I have to say that it’s odd for a library to be discouraging the book loving kids. Most libraries publish the stats on total number of participants and total number of books read. And the GOOD children’s librarians try to nurture and support the nerdy, bookish kids who devour the collection….That’s part of their JOB. That said, it’s been years since I’ve seen a library award a prize for total books read. Most seem to have benchmarks– this year, every two novels earned the big kids a prize. So every kid could win at least one prize, and the big readers had tons of prizes. (prizes included candy bars, so my daughter saw the reading program as a way to avoid having to spend her allowance on treats…)

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Our library organized summer book clubs. The librarians put together a “challenge” reading list for different age/grade groups. The kids meet once per week to discuss the weekly assigned book. They also keep a reading journal. The middle school group read Lord of the Rings over two weeks. At the end of the summer, they do a party thing with certificates of completion for all members who read all the books, participated in the discussion groups, and keep a reading journal.

        This is the type of thing the mom should be looking for. Yeah, it’s great if your kid likes to read a lot, but, at some point, quality matters. If you’ve got an enthusiastic reader, it’s time to start focusing on quality not quantity.