Why My Kids Do Not Participate in Summer Reading Programs

Treatise from a homeschooling mother on why her children DO NOT participate in summer reading programs at libraries.

Sara McGrath states, "My children have participated in various bookstore and library events, but I have never enrolled them in a summer reading program. For the same reasons that I don't endorse cash rewards for grades, I don't support incentive programs for reading."

Guess her kids aren't going to see some poor librarian dye her hair green or get buried in jello.


My kids get some nice bag full of prizes and coupons and such. They wouldn't read just to see hair turn colors, unless it's my hair.

It's pretty short on supporting evidence but it is certainly something to think about when talking with reluctant parents. I don't agree with her viewpoint but as it reads more like an opinion piece, it feels more like a difference of opinion.

You'll notice that the three people who commented on her article were all against her point of view.

Do her children float through the reading programs pillowed on a cushion of her own smug, self-satisfaction like their mother?

"MY children don't eat sugar. When they want a piece of chocolate they meditate about starving monks in Tibet."

Parents like this should be deaf mutes.

My children have a love for reading independent of the summer reading program. They like to participate in the summer reading program because then they get rewards for doing something they already like to do.

Homeschooling parents like to suck the fun out of life.

Don't worry ... her kids will escape in a few years.

"The last time we went, he tried to give them a toy from this tiny 'pirate treasure chest.' A toy? That's a reward for getting their teeth checked. I won't have it. When we reward them for doing something they should do anyway, to have healthy teeth, it just makes having healthy teeth seem wrong."

This woman needs to read 44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith. The storyline involving Irene and Bertie should hit close to home.

The nerve of those little wretches... asking for a REWARD in life! HA! Personally, I work for free because I love my job SO MUCH. Who would EVER ask for a REWARD for doing something they SHOULD (like supporting themselves and others or being part of the greater community of man on the planet?). And making friends during Summer Reading? Who needs friends when we have a MOM like HER!?? We'll never go off to school because WHO NEEDS THE REWARD OF A HIGHER EDUCATION? Mommy can teach us everything we need to know in life, right?

Please. Overindulgent, smug, pathetic, over protective mothers make me ILL. Thank God I was thrown from the nest at 6 weeks and allowed to claw my way in the world. (.. well, not really but I was going for the visual.)

Sad for You, and Yours, in TX

The other extreme is this homeschool family who would sign up at every branch of our country library district. They would check out BOXES of books, then we'd find them in the book return the next day, or at a different branch the next day. They were trying to win the Most Books Read prize and anything else they could get their hands on.
They are the reason we changed sign up to one branch only. The children's librarians wanted to change Most Books Read to something that rewarded children who actually READ the books, but the managers were too concerned with circulation numbers.

I have heard this arguement before at college from my academic collegues. Why is it when we are talking about kids they should read because they love books and not get prizes. But when it is an adult for anything it is what is in in for me?

We are bribing kids to be quiet and behave, we are rewarding their efforts to read during vacation. They can read whatever they want, subjects they love, bugs, dogs, snakes and stories. The kids don't have to give a report, share a speach or make a poster after they are done. They actually get something fun like a free meal or the ability to go to a theme park, baseball game or win a chance at a shirt or other prize. This is their lottery but instead of taking chances with money they may never see again, they are keeping up their reading skills in a fun way.

I think it is great that we can get community support in a library program even if it is for an order of fries or a kid's meal. We are letting the kids know they have done something well. And if it creates a good habit out of kids more power to them. I have some kids that are reading this summer and aren't interested in the prizes and that's ok too.

I see some adults and parents come in with that certain look in their eye, of yesteryear or longing and ask the simple question with a smile - "Can I join in on your program and get a prize too?"

Sometimes even a sticker or a good job can be reward enough. But we all, if we admit it, enjoy getting prizes, gifts, incentives, call it what you will once in awhile. To say good job.

There certainly are a lot of people on this list who fight against positive reinforcement. Punishing bad behavior isn't as effective as rewarding good behavior, but it certainly it is more satisfying for those belt-wielding people applying negative reinforcement.

Ignore them when they do good. Punish them when they do bad. Guess what they will do to get attention in the future?

'Cause I haven't seen anyone here agree that positive reinforcement is a bad thing, unless you count the two clear satires on the concept.

Unless you're counting the lack of positive reinforcement for this mom's dislike of positive reinforcement, that is: Yep, lots of people on this list are failing to positively reinforce her negativity.

I don't like schools giving out prizes for grades, because a good grade is the prize. Schools should focus on performance unless they want to recognize number of the books read or to reward other types of behavior. Stickers are cheap and easy.

If parents want to give kids money based on grades, or some other reward, then that's their option and it may lead to another type of lesson, such as saving or spending wisely. You never know.

If libraries give out prizes, I think that's OK - I'd prefer to see bigger prizes for bigger accomplishments (such as truly reading 50 books over the summer), but few librarians have time to quiz a kid for that knowledge. Little prizes can mean a lot to very young children.

Kudos to this mom if her kids read for pleasure or without inducement, but not everyone can say that, and reluctant readers may need a bribe here and there. And, dare I say it, summer reading is about celebration and fun?

I'm personally fascinated by both the central and marginal role that books have in our culture. Certain books are "dangerous" or "influence" a child in some way, and then we worry that kids are barely reading anymore.

Here's one for you: I took some books to a German Baptist Brethren family (similar to Amish, personal friends of mine). Their mom said, "Our kids read too much! We keep telling them to go outside and experience real life, but they just want to read all summer." I almost fell off my chair. After I passed them the Shel Silverstein.

Join or not--who cares? As far as I'm concerned, the entire summer reading program is just a numbers game though we have great prizes and wonderful programs. I do it because it's expected though I no longer think it's relevant.

My children love to read. I understand the GBB mom. I have sent my children outside saying, "At least read in the tree house - the fresh air is healthier." We also do the summer reading program, but this year I noticed a change. Rather than reading for the pleasure of it, there was a sudden glut of "reading" where they sped through as many books as possible, hardly remembering what they were about, while near frantically scribbling titles on the lines. They were racing to "get the prize first." I'm not exaggerating - they did this on library days. We probably won't sign up next year.
That said, I do believe it is beneficial for children who don't read on thier own. My brother never wanted to read, but he did it for the prizes in the summer reading program. Now he buys the books he read for his own children, telling them how he read those books when he was young and they "were really good."
So I suppose it just depends on the child.

Dear Over-privileged Moron with Time and Money on Her Hands,

Not everyone in the city or county has the luxury of time or being able to afford any sort of little awards for their children because of the cost of food and shelter, especially right now. Whatever we can do to bring reading to the reader we're going to do.

these kids can still do the program and decline the prize -- often the kids here at my library view the prize as just the cake icing and the pride and satisfaction they feel about completing their challenge come first. I don't do races or competitive type programs -- and I don't give out the prizes until after the six weeks is up -- we have a box of small prizes (which includes many new paperback books!).
I think her reaction is overkill -- and I ask this? Is it better to support
commerical establishments (book stores) or better to support the FREE public library, intellectual freedom and democracy?

I became a devoted reader after we had a special reading program in 2nd grade. I don't remember the prizes--with the exception of an end-of-year pizza party--but I was hooked on books after that, prizes or no prizes. To the extent that a friend of my mother's once accused her of thinking that "all kids who don't sit around reading more books than they have in the state of California need Ritalin!" and some of the local library assistants still recognize me from the time I spent in libraries as a child, even though I'm in my twenties.
I wonder if this mom would discourage her kids from doing things that require them to read as a working activity, like graduate school, for example? Certainly, I read some books for my MA in history which I wouldn't have read otherwise--Andre Gunder Franck's 500-page book on China and the world economy, "ReOrient"springs to mind---to save myself the embarassment of being the clueless one in a class full of smart grad students!