Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reading For Fun

             Recently I read of a contest for elementary school students that involved the number of books they could read within a limited time period. I wonder if those contests are always a good idea.       

            The article reminded me of a visit I made to the day school at Smith College years ago. It was toward the end of the academic year and I was visiting the first grade. The children were all busy at their tables reading. One little fellow was tearing through a chapter book as fast as he could go.

            "What're you reading?" I asked. I can't remember his answer, but I do recall his next comment:

"I'm getting started on the contest to see who can read the most books this summer. The person who can read the most books gets a prize." He turned back to his book, abruptly ending our conversation. I'm not sure he was interested in the story he was reading but he was keenly interested in the fact that shortly he would have read one more book.

            Across the room at another table another boy was grinning at a picture in his book. He called me over, "Look at this," he laughed and then he began to tell me about the story he was reading and how the picture depicted an event that he thought was hilarious.

            I left the classroom that day thinking there is a real difference between reading as a means to an end, and reading for the fun of it, and wishing that, as important as the first type is, it would be nice if it could be done in such a way that children could also keep forever the joy of the second type of reading.

  "To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting."
                                                                            E. Burke


  1. I remember a Catholic Priest once telling a group of us young students that saying the rosary had ruined prayer for many of us. He said to picture Mary as our Mom, sitting in a chair, and we as her children were running around her in a circle, yelling, "I love you, I love you, I love you" over and over and over, so many times that we no longer knew what we were saying. He asked us what we thought it would mean to her.

    Probably the same thing that book meant to your first student. Not much. One fervent prayer, or one thoroughly enjoyed book will always be of more value than a slew that was rushed-through.

  2. Your post hits at one of the biggest social ills (I believe, anyway) in the generations of my children and those following: Everything is "rewarded", so now nothing is really special. If every one wins, no one wins. I vividly recall one of the last school daze in elementary school for my youngest daughter. Every kid in the class got a certificate for something. Seems as if it ain't souped up, glittered, and hang-on-the-wallable, it isn't good enough. (Okay, now stepping off my soap box...hang on, it's pretty tall....) Whew. Made it.

    Hopefully a few of the kids will find the joy of reading in the contest process (one of your books, maybe?) and will be a reader for life. As I've always told myself when I'm fishing: "I can't catch'em all," so I apppreciate those that I do, big or small.

    Maybe the contest will catch one or two as well.

  3. That was nice. I want to keep this in mind especially when our little ones read to us. Tonight it wasn't as important to finish the book as it was to recount what we'd just read (and to laugh about it).