Nine-Year-Old (Almost) Penalized for Reading Too Many Books?! WHAT?!?

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This week, I read an article about a library director who (allegedly) said 9-year-old Tyler Weaver, who read a staggering 63 books over a 6-week period this summer, “hogs” the prizes each year, and should “step aside”, and let other kids win. The reasoning? This young scholar has won every year since he entered Kindergarten. In the past 5 years, he has read 373 books! 373!!! To prove the children have read the books, they are questioned about the books by the library. They don’t take the parents’ or children’s word for it. That I agree with. Some parents these days will lie through their teeth to try to get Little Johnny something he doesn’t deserve. You know the type of parents I’m referring to.

Like many of you, I have a BIG problem with the “everybody gets a participation trophy” mentality today. When I was a kid, I won very few trophies but the ones I did win I earned through very hard work. If I’d been given those trophies just for participating, I’d have had no incentive to work hard, nor to succeed at all.

There was one time that I received something I didn’t earn and I was terribly embarrassed about it. During a school art show, I won several ribbons and I got suspicious because I am NOT good at painting or drawing by any stretch (though I may have inherited some fiber arts talent from my mother). I later learned that one of the contest judges was my boyfriend’s mother at the time. Everybody knew I didn’t deserve to win anything and the fact that I did made me look bad. I’d have rather not won anything at all than to have taken prizes away from kids who clearly were far more deserving of those ribbons. It was unfair. Period.

When you give an award to everyone, and when you penalize the best students (and artists) for doing too well, you not only discourage those who are truly gifted in those areas, but you don’t give those who need practice any incentive to work harder, and to fly higher.

The fact is not every kid can (or even wants to) read 63 books in 6 weeks. If they haven’t done better than their peers, they don’t deserve to win first place over a child who did. Giving a prize to the ones who didn’t really win is actually demeaning to them, and dilutes the entire contest. When kids on the same learning level are competing against each other, the boy or girl who does the best job deserves to win, and deserves to keep their prize.

If you take a reward away from the child did the best job, you remove their desire to achieve, which can affect their entire future. Imagine if awards and rewards (including jobs) had been taken away from the great intellectuals and artists in history. Imagine their incentive being diminished or even distinguished because they had nothing meaningful to strive for simply because somebody along the way thought that a lesser-performing individual should receive an equal reward.

Incidentally, Tyler’s brother won second place for the second year in a row so, clearly, that household supports reading (and not video games!) as a wholesome hobby. As for the crotchety library director, she apparently wants to change the rules next year so the winner is picked out of a hat instead. She is doing no child any favors by making it a lottery instead of a contest. Ludicrous! I’m glad she doesn’t work at our local library. Sounds to me like it’s time for her to retire!

An aid at that library came forward with her opposition to the lottery idea and she contacted a library board member to complain. Good for her for fighting for the winner’s rights! She is the one who asks the questions about the books and she said Tyler and his brother have borrowed 1,000 books over the past few years. If anyone deserves to win, those two do!

Tyler’s mom says the library director should have been proud of Tyler instead of wanting to penalize him. We wholeheartedly agree.



About The Author

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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