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I’ve had an epiphany: I’m not entering my children in the summer reading challenge at our library this year.  There’s a number of reasons, from my forgetting that it had started until two weeks in, to the fact that the theme just isn’t grabbing me, to the memory of the carpal tunnel I suffered from last summer as I wrote out all of their dictated impressions of the books I read to them.   The main reason though is that I just can’t bring myself to do it because it occurs to me that the only way to win this competition (or challenge or whatever you want to call it) is to read a ton, and I do mean a ton, of books.  Sounds like a good thing, right?  Allow me to explain why it is not.

Last summer, the littles each got credited with 75 books.  That’s a lot, considering the oldest was 7 and the youngest was just 3.  76 books each.  And last year, I was really excited about it.  This year?  Not so much.  I’ve realized that in my eagerness to have my children participate in something, I lost sight of my beliefs on education.  I was so busy having fun with them and working towards our goal that, even though I was a little bit more discerning about the books being brought home for the most part, by the end, were were counting just about everything we read.   That’s a problem for me.  It isn’t a problem for the challenge, because it’s allowed in the rules, and I guess that’s the real problem: Reading is morally neutral.

I repeat: Reading is morally neutral.   Got it?

It is not a good in and of itself.  It is only good if what it being read is beneficial to the person, either in its content, or at the least in its ability to help one improve one’s reading skills.  Some of the books we read rushed through last summer were quite good, on both counts.  Some were good only in the content, which is the more important aspect in my opinion.  And some, well, some were just not good.  They weren’t bad, per se.  They were just common.  Some of them had nothing to recommend them other than their short length and lack of anything overtly bad.

I don’t want to do this again.  I refuse to do this again.

I want what my children read to have meaning, to teach them, to not clutter their mind’s with rubbish that only serves to take up space in their little heads and add another mark to their challenge tally.  I want them to understand what good literature is so that they can learn to recognize it on their own when I’m not there to tell them, “No, sweetie, we aren’t getting that book because it’s not worth the effort it would take to carry it out of the library.”  I want them to read good things and to learn to love reading good things.

This summer, I’m going to have my children read and I’m going to read to them.  I will most likely have them keep a log of what has been read, with a couple of lines or an illustration to accompany each book entered.  I will check my own need for recognition in order that they may learn to recognize and love the well-written word.  I will not participate for participation’s sake.

I will READ,a  lot, of GOOD books.  Who’s with me?!

(Was the exclamation point too much?  It’s too much isn’t it?  Oh well.)

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