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."