Summer Reading Manifesto

Someone posted on our state library list-serv earlier this week about teens and summer reading:

Do any libraries have a special policy for allowing teens to use graphic novels as part of the summer reading program?  We have a prize for the most pages read & are concerned that the teens reading classic novels are being cheated by the ones reading graphics.  We thought about having a
word count instead of a page count...Any input would be greatly appreciated!

 Here is my (slightly-edited) response to the question's asker: 

Our teens are allowed to read whatever they want. I urge you not to think that graphic novels are "cheating". Some of them are "serious works of art" and some are serious fun. Should summer reading be a competition (what "cheating" implies) or should it be to encourage reading for fun?

When I was in high school, I liked reading all sorts of genres. I would have been mortified and/or very angry if a librarian told me what I was reading was cheating or not a real book. I spent 9 months of the year being told by adults what I had to read for school. I didn't have time to read for fun when I was a teen between school, sports, a job, and other extracurricular activities. Breaks from school were the only time I got to pick whatever I wanted to read.

Some kids like to read classic novels and many don't. Would we place this kind of judgement on adult reading material?

You might also wish to change your program and explore the idea of counting something other than pages read. We switched from pages read to time spent reading and have never looked back. It's less math for us and it levels the playing ground for slower readers. 

One of the things I like most about being a Children's Librarian is that I am not a teacher. I get many (most) of the pros of being a teacher but I don't have to deal with standardized tests and many of the other cons of today's educational system. The kids come here (for the most part) because they want to. No one that works here is going to force a kid to read anything. How wonderful is that!

Kids can (and do!) roam the stacks for hours picking up books left and right. If they don't like it, they can put it back. If they do, they can take it home or read it here.  It is not my job to teach them how to read. It is my joy to show them how much fun they can have reading. I'd like to see Google do that.


  1. I agree. We count books read in our summer reading club. We have a restriction that you can count 1 magazine, cartoon, or comic book for every 5 books read. Read five in a row? Great, one per list. I don't like restricting things read either, but it's seems the most fair.

  2. Hear hear! Thanks for posting this. I have been debating about responding myself, but I haven't found a non-snarky way to do so. What would this non-classics-are-cheating person have to say about our program, in which teens (and everyone else) can actually do other things, too, like come to library programs or check out Museum Adventure Passes? Surely we're encouraging subversive behavior and ruining it for the classics-readers.

  3. Anne--

    My basic goal is to have as few rules as I can get away with. And reading graphic novels can't be cheating if there isn't a rule against it. There is nothing stopping the classics-kids (and I'm sure that so many kids are knee-deep in "the classics" this summer) from reading something "easier".

    I am so jealous of your awesome summer reading program. It sounds so amazing. Let us know how it turns out... I bet there's a lib journal article in it for y'all. Did you see David Lee King's post today about putting SRP stats as the background image on public PCs? I love that idea.

    I tried to stay away from being snarky as much as I can. But I don't know what people are thinking sometimes.

  4. Honestly that's also why I much appreciate counting time read as opposed to pages read. If someone is a slow reader but they sit down and put in the effort of reading 10 pages but it takes them 30 minutes to me that should count the same as the kid who sits down and reads 3 books in that half hour.

  5. Reading is reading. When will we learn this? When will we stop making judgments on what people want to read? Would we tell an adult participating in summer reading who was reading Maus and Blankets that they needed to read some "real" books? No? Then why do we do this to teens?

    Your response was much more polite than I would have managed.


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