Can there ever be such a thing as reading too much?

Imagine my outrage upon hearing about the above story as I was driving to work this morning.  A nine year old boy (that's right, he's NINE) has been told not to participate in his school's read-a-thon because he reads too much.

Is there even such a thing as reading too much?

The mere idea fills me with militant rage.
I thought as much.

Working as a bookseller full time this year has taught me two things about kids and reading.

1) Kids are either readers or they are not.  And it's really hard to get the non-readers into the reader camp- it takes a special kind of book, so thank God for Andy Griffiths.

2) There are boys out there who love to read and they should be encouraged.

I believe that the spirit of competition means that the person who works the hardest wins.  I used to love read-a-thons, or at least the idea of them because I don't think my school ever actually did one.  What we did have were swimming carnivals, sports carnivals, run-a-thons, cross country, interschool carnivals etc etc... you get the picture.  In other words, winning at sports was encouraged.  The 'coolest' people in my year were the ones who were known for being athletically gifted.  I was not, but I also didn't enjoy sports that much.  I gave it a go, and that's important, because if everyone gives it a go, it makes the experience that much more special for the kids who do win.  What fun is winning against no one?

But what if one day the sports teacher came along and said to the fastest boy in our year, "Josh, you win every year and it's time for someone else to have a go."  Number one, this is going to crush Josh who probably defines himself as being good at running and athletics.  And number two, this encourages other kids to not be determined, resilient and hardworking.  In other words, it makes them lazier and more precious because even if they do nothing, they are still going to be rewarded.  This is also why I think participation ribbons are a little bit bullshit.  I certainly never got one, so that one time I came fourth out of five people in the lowest division short distance run?  That felt great.

Returning to the issue of the read-a-thon: for some kids, being a bookworm is the best thing about them.  People who don't like to read simply don't get it.  We don't do it because we're boring or nerdy or because we don't have any friends to see instead.  Reading is our passion, like running or swimming or basketball is for someone else.  And if Tyler Weaver chooses to work hard at reading the most books over summer again this year, then give him the cheap prize you've lined up.  If someone else wants that prize, they're just going to have to work harder to win it, aren't they?

For Pete's sake, lady, you're a librarian.  If "two kids come in every week to take books out" then you're doing your job.  And if you did it a little better, maybe there would be more than two.  Reading should be a joy and not a chore.


  1. I'm with you, what appalling behaviour on the part of the library director, there are so many alternative ways she could have handled the whole thing without penalising that boy.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  2. It gets on my goat, too, Emily. I especially like the hypothetical about the teacher telling 'Josh' not to run this year and give someone else a go! Like that would happen in Australia ... I don't think so! You just have to put your blinkers and teflon on, tell yourself it's okay to be outside of mainstream, and keep going down the path you want to follow!

  3. Hear Hear, Emily. That is so wrong. And, yes, I agree, that would never happen in sport. FAIL!


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