Librarian tries to ban reading champ from contest; Can a kid read too much?

Users of social media lashed out against the Hudson Falls, N.Y. library director this week for suggesting that a 9-year-old boy be banned from a reading contest for hogging the title.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Rohan Beckford, 12, center, reads Percy Jackson's fifth book in the series 'The last Olympian,' as he sits outside on a rooftop patio with other youngsters for independent reading at LitCamp, a summer reading program offered through the nonprofit literacy organization LitWorld, in the Harlem section of New York, Aug. 7, 2013.

A Hudson Falls, N.Y. librarian's attempts to ban five-time summer reading contest winner, 9-year-old Tyler Weaver from this summer's competition because he reads so much and "hogs" the contest has sparked some online scorn and raises questions about how American culture values reading. The librarian in question claimed that Tyler's monopoly on the contest discouraged others from playing. So far, no formal action has been taken.

Would a coach ask a track star to step aside after winning the 100-meter dash several meets in a row? Would a football coach bench a quarterback for "too many" touchdowns? Probably not.

However, sports are competitive by nature and are built around the framework of winners and losers. Reading, on the other hand, is a much more individual activity. The length of one reader’s book list cannot diminish another reader's journey through a story. Fast readers and slow readers still enjoy the same characters and plot twists.

While reading contests may be designed to encourage reading among young people, making reading a competition may actually undermine this goal. Competition is woven into so many childhood experiences that, for some kids, books can be an escape from that pressure. Other summer reading programs take a different tack and reward all of the children that read more than a certain number of books with a special bookmark or an ice cream party.

While adding a competitive element may inspire some children, it will probably also discourage others, regardless of how many times the reigning champ has won.

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