Does tracking your reading time take away the joy of reading? Can the action of having to record the minutes you spend reading make a reader become a non-reader?
I’ve often thought about this, and I was very interested to read this article in The Atlantic. The article suggests that the school practice of asking children to read for twenty minutes a night and then to record that time and write about their reading can and does affect how children view reading; that reading goes from being a pleasure to being a chore. My question is, does the summer reading program at the library fall into the same category?
The summer reading program is voluntary, so that makes me feel better. But I also know that I participate in the summer reading program each year myself, with the goal of reading at least thirty hours each summer, and that I actually hate having to keep track of how much time I spend reading. I read because I love to read, not because I need to read thirty minutes a day (or whatever time is necessary to get to thirty hours), and tracking feels wrong. Do I count the ten minutes in the bathroom reading The New Yorker? Yuck – but I guess I do. If I get totally sucked into a great story, do I have to look at the clock at the start of my reading and then again at the end and then do the math to figure out how much time I’ve read, rather than bask in the glow of having finished an excellent book? If I’m tracking my summer reading, then yes, I do.
So I see why the argument could be made that the library summer reading program could be detrimental to the joy of reading for some children. BUT – and this is a big BUT – we all know that children leave school in June with a certain skill level for reading, and that if they don’t read over the summer their reading skill will have dimished by the fall. This does happen, and the way to avoid that slippage is to read over the summer. Summer is also an amazing time for children and reading, since they have lots of free time and the ability to choose to read whatever they would like. I have seen many children go from functional to avid (and hopefully lifelong) readers over the course of the summer. It can be magic, and the summer reading program helps that magic to happen.
As you can see from my past two posts, one of my big goals at the library has been to make the summer reading program be more about pride of achievement and joy of reading than about junky prizes or requirements. I’m hopeful that the structure of our summer reading program nurtures joy and pride; I’ve certainly done my best to format it that way. And it is, and always will be, an optional part of a child’s summer. For the children who tell me they love to read but don’t want to participate in summer reading, my response is always, “That is absolutely OK! The most important thing is that you Love To Read!”