Brickbat: Reading Isn't Fundamental


Tyler Weaver, 9, has won the Hudson Falls, New York, library's summer reading contest five years in a row, and Library Director Marie Gandron says that's enough. She says Weaver "hogs" the contest and should step aside. Since he hasn't, she said she planned to change the rules so that the winner is just chosen from names drawn out of a hat. But now she says she can't do that since Tyler's mother told the local newspaper about her plans.

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  1. Why not have a rule that says you can’t win twice in a row, or can only win once, or can only win once in five years? Such rules are commonplace, and implemented to deal with just this kind of situation.

    I agree with the library. The kid can read real well. The nice thing to do would be to enjoy your superior reading ability and let someone else win the contest.

    He’s not being asked to give up reading, or being alive.

    It’s like a pro basketball player competing against kindergarteners. Have some grace.

    Another way to deal with it would be to make a special role for the super reader, like promote him to special volunteer reading tutor, special volunteer reading tutors being, of course, ineligible to compete against their students.

    1. Yeah, this kid is totally a ringer. Well, better make sure that these kids that don’t apply themselves have a fair chance at winning. Cuz that’s what life is all about and shit.

    2. like promote him to special volunteer reading tutor

      “Volunteer” must have a special meaning i wasn’t aware of

    3. That’s not what the library is doing — they are resolving to do away with the entire notion of merit-based awards altogether.

      A kid who can read well is not a problem or a nuisance in a well-run reaing program, and promoting him or putting him in a “hall of fame” and preventing hall of famers from competing in future events is in no way similar to doing away with merit-based awards altogether.

      It is telling that the elimination of merit-based awards is the go-to response to consistent dedication and success.

    4. “….let someone else win…”

      I dont think you know what the word ‘win’ means. Fuck you.

      1. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        1. And, almost as important, is ‘Never go up against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line.’

    5. Why not let the best reader win, whoever that may be? I truly despise people like you and the library director, who feel the need to cut others down in order to compensate for their own feelings of inadequacy.

      1. The entire point of the contest is not to reward good readers. (If it were, there the definition of “good reader” would be something other than “the kid who has read the most books.”) It is, instead, to encourage kids to read who might not otherwise be reading. The contest only achieves its purpose if it motivates a bunch of kids to read. But if the same “best reader” is a shoo-in to win year after year after year, then just about everybody else will lose interest in the contest, which will be a failure as far as achieving its goals is concerned.

        Imagine if Smallville High School tried to encourage aerobic fitness among its students by offering a prize to the student with the best time in a yearly 5K race. If Clark Kent won the race his freshman year by running it in 20 seconds, cut his time to 15 seconds in his sophomore year, and was looking forward to doing it in 5 seconds as a junior, then I’d bet most of the other students would figure there was no point entering the race, and would go back to eating potato chips and playing video games.

        1. then I’d bet most of the other students would figure there was no point entering the race, and would go back to eating potato chips and playing video games.

          Sure. That’s why marathons only get 100 or so people running in them, tops. That’s why local golf tournaments only draw a handful of scratch golfers and no one else. Because why do anything if you can’t be number one?

    6. That is grade A trolling Chuck. Look how many took the bait. I salute you sir.

      1. oh godammit it…

      2. I agree. Perfect tone for a concern troll. Better than Tony.

    7. I agree wholeheartedly. In addition, from now on the Super Bowl should disqualify the previous year’s winner from participating. This way all the other athletes won’t feel discouraged when one team or group of teams keeps making it to the big game. Oh, and the top earning company in the country should have enough of it’s profits seized in order to make another company the top dog that year. Or maybe we can just pool all of the profits and award them to the company that gets randomly selected out of a hat! Merit be damned!

    8. He won when he was younger too, presumably competing against older kids. So much for being a ringer.

      The contest rules say the books have to be age-appropriate. So much for being a ringer.

  2. Look, you can’t expect to win anything by actually following the rules and just working harder or smarter than other people. What do you think this is, China?

  3. [grunts] must…give…everyone…a trophy..

  4. The librarian is a jerk, but the kid’s parents and librarian together should be looking for other outlets for him and other kids like him. How about a reading club that requires more difficult books and includes discussion and writing?

    1. Because you know his parents don’t do that already?

    2. How about a contest that requires age-appropriate books?

      Oh wait ….

  5. The objective of a library summer reading program (SRP) is not to reward the best reader. It is to sign up as many people as possible and to get as high a percentage as possible to complete the program. If a competitive element of the SRP is risking a decline in participation (because for instance kids don’t want to sign up when they are virtually guaranteed to lose to this guy) then it needs to be changed/removed so that the SRP can return to functionality.
    It’s not about not promoting reading, of which this kid clearly already does plenty. It is about promoting reading among the population that would not otherwise be doing so.

    1. Bah. He’s winning it fair and square. The takeaway lesson from ending the program would be not to trounce everyone all the time because it’s not considerate. I would rather have the kid learn to like winning and willing to do what it took to do so without sabotaging anyone else at the same time.

    2. How is a kid showing just how much you can read not encouragement? There seem to be runner up prizes and one of the librarians was calling up kids to remind them to finish 10 books for the party at the end. Kids whose parents don’t read can see reading as something easy just by participating in a contest with a couple of dedicated readers, rather than get a parade for heroically finishing a couple of books.

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

    Or because — dare I say it? — *they don’t like to read*.

    1. Does not compute. How can any child not like to read? It’s the only way to get away from their tepid, miserable larval existence.

      Or are these the useless yuppie larvae from a more privileged economic strata? Since it has an active program, it might well be, since we poor kids were simply tossed to the wind and told “fend for yourselves”.

      I’m in a bit of a sour mood today.

      1. Hudson Falls is, as far as I’m aware, not a wealthy area. It’s an hour or so northeast of Albany.

  7. Sounds like a job for the Handicapper General.

  8. This sort of thing happened to me in the 5th grade. The teacher had a reading contest based on pages read and a short report about the book (proving you actually read it.) There was a model of the solar system and everyone started at Pluto and the goal was to reach the Sun first. Whoever got to a planet first got a prize. I was on Mars by the time most of them made it to Uranus (hurr). She suspended the single prize for each planet and started giving baubles to everyone when they got to a planet. And then told me I couldn’t submit anymore reports until everyone caught up with me.

    People wonder why I hate most teachers.

    1. I was admonished by more than one teacher year after year for “reading ahead”. I think this is what started me down an early path to libertarianism.

      1. I went to a very small elementary school with some not-so-bright kids. When they were still learning to read in third grade, this girl and I had to drag our desks out into the hall and wait for it to be over because we’d answer every question. Eventually, she and I just started wandering down to the library to hang out with the librarian. The librarian encouraged me to read far more than any teacher ever did. And she gave me my first Heinlein novel.

        1. I responded to this sort of stuff either by not wanting to answer the questions, or by correcting the teachers when they were wrong.

          1. “correcting the teachers when they were wrong”

            Turns out, teachers aren’t big fans of this one. I should know!

            Man, libertarians are like the hazardous byproduct of the government school system.

            1. “correcting the teachers when they were wrong”

              Yup. I had a 7th grade science teacher try to explain how food went into the stomach, small intestine, then to the liver (but just fats – sugar goes to the pancreas), then the large intestine….. Yikes. After I asked her for clarification a few times (hoping she’d catch her error) she finally got frustrated and sarcastically asked if I’d like to teach the class.

              Well, sarcasm detector being broken, I hopped up and proceeded to give the lecture on the digestive tract, including the role of the liver and pancreas. Surprisingly she wasn’t all that grateful. She retaliated later with a paddling for something I didn’t do. Dad was the PTA president at the time. I don’t know what was said in the meeting, but she wasn’t renewed for the next year….

              Worst part of that story…. she was far from being the worst teacher I had. Yeesh. Public school sux!

          2. Yeah I tried that. Adults generally don’t take it well when a 9 year old shows them up. Fortunately, I went to public school before the NEA realized they were union, so teachers actually had to pay attention when parents complained. Still, having the undying hatred of a teacher can make for an unpleasant school year.

        2. Stranger In A Strange Land? Glory Road? Starship Troopers? Podkayne of Mars? Hopefully, not one of his later “dirty old man” types.

          1. I wonder how many readers of the Heinlein ‘juveniles’ realize that Podkayne was black?

    2. Hmmm the one I won also used planets as a measuring stick. Personally I found it kind of a drag, the books I usually read for fun were ahead of the ones available and I much preferred reading them without being tracked by anybody.

    3. I also first encountered a library reading club/contest in 5th grade when we moved to North Carolina. My mother took me to the local library and the librarian explained the contest and the prizes – each week we were to tell her all about the books we read. I was pretty excited. When Thursday rolled around and it was time to give our book reports for the week, we were late so I told the librarian about Fahrenheit 541 all by myself. The next week was Asimov and “Nemesis”. About 20 kids were there. I went first and told them the entire plot of Nemesis. It probably took better than 15 minutes. The next kid up was also in the 5th grade and proceeded to give his report on some 2,000 word picture book in about 30 seconds. The next kid had a couple of similar books to report on. Uh, oh. The rest of the group followed in similar style, with the “hard core” readers talking about “Nancy Drew” or “Encyclopedia Brown”. Ooops.

      I was so embarrassed that I never went back. That poor librarian – I can just imagine having to sit through this nerdy little kid reciting an entire novel…. twice. And with diversions into dissertations on hydroponics and space travel. She was a trooper though… she acted interested throughout the entire tale. Quite the opposite of the “let someone else win” mentality of this lady.

  9. Why doesn’t the librarian just buy the kid a video game. That would put a stop to all this readin’ durin’ Summer shit. Worked for me.

    1. This little jackass would probably insist on Europa Universalis IV or some such. He’d just come back next year that much stronger and speaking out against the injustices of feudalism and about how the U.S. hasn’t entered into war with a proper casus belli in two generations.

  10. Gah, the comments!

    HighWizard – August 22, 2013 10:14 am
    Sorry, but I’m going to side with the librarian. I have a child that in 5th grade was reading almost at a 12th grade reading level. She flies through books. So, she would win the reading competitions with no problems. However, she enjoys reading and competitions will not make her read more or help her read. I ALSO have a child that struggles to read. She is at grade level and does not enjoy reading at all. She would not even enter a competition that promotes prizes for reading the most books. HOWEVER, if every child had a shot at winning the competition, she would try harder to read more books. We want the kids to want to read and enjoy reading. So, the librarian is right. Five or six (or more) kids dropping out because they don’t have a shot at winning or changing the competition and losing one kid (okay, two kids) but having more kids reading is worth more than the a prize.

    If one of your kids could run faster than the other would you whack him in the knee with a pipe. Lady, you have one smart kid and one dumb kid. In baseball, batting .500 gets you in the hall of fame.

  11. They should require that every kid who participate in this activity read “Harrison Bergeron”. And the Library Director, too.

    1. I was thinking Finnegans Wake.

  12. 1. If you do well at something, someone will change the rules.
    2. If you don’t do well at something, you can get ahead by gaming the system.

    Valuable lessons for a 9-year-old!

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