Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Reading

My schedule is calming down a little bit since I finished my comprehensive tests last week (no scores back yet, knock on wood).  I still am taking three tech classes, but we're also mostly moved in to the new house, so I can actually do some reading.  I probably won't beat my reading last year of about 20 chapter books for children, but I'm going to try.  I am a volunteer reader for my state library association and have a list of children's books I've been asked to read.

So my first book this summer is Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Rodrick Rules, by Jeff Kinney:

I know I'm behind in my reading as this was published and popular some time ago.  (Goodness, the movie is on DVD now!)  This book isn't on the list from the association, but I wanted to catch up on the series anyway.  My husband read it too, and it  really is laugh-out-loud funny.  When I did my student teaching in 2009, one fifth grader encouraged me to read these.  I love recommendations from kids! 

So back to this list - I should give some background on it.  Members of the state library association are asked to read as many of these books on a list as they can, and rate them based on whether they should be included on a list for students to read.  Then the votes are tallied, and the results are used as choices for students to vote on as the best children's book - not for this fall, but next.  So we're already 1+ years behind.  That's not really the problem, as the logistics of getting the list books to school libraries in time for the next school year requires it.  And as I said, Rodrick Rules is not on the list - but the first one Wimpy Kid book is!  So in 2012-13, students might be asked to choose Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the best children's book!  What the heck?  I mean, it's a great book, but could we choose a book that's a little less popular?  

First, we should give attention to authors who need our help - Kinney doesn't need it.  This list needs to be motivational, inviting students to read books they haven't read.  Plus, we look completely irrelevant as an organization!  The high school voters chose The Hunger Games last school year - again, a great book, but since the third book is out and the series is finished, couldn't we just not?  The average age for this summer's list is 2009 - that's not that behind, but seriously, let's not choose such popular books to be included on the ballot.  I hate giving Wimpy Kid a 1 for  "definitely should not be on the list," but that's what I'm going to do.

I learned in a great math class years ago about the math of voting, and how the votes are counted determines who wins the election.  I don't know how the votes are counted here, but I'm guessing it's a simple counting, and the more people who gave a book a 5 for "should definitely be on the list," the higher the score, and it will be the top choice.  Yes, most volunteers have probably read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It's that popular.  If it's on the ballot, most of the kid voters will have read it too, and it will probably win.  But that doesn't mean it should be on the list in the first place!

I know it's not easy to make up the list for the summer reading by the librarians so far ahead, then get volunteers and get the results all tabulated and such.  But before the list was emailed out this spring, couldn't we look at the list and take out such obvious successful outliers? 


  1. This is my first year as a reader and I had the exact same thoughts when I saw Wimpy Kid on the list. It is neat that the children make the first suggestions, but it does mean the award is less likely to promote quality children's books that children may have missed. I also think putting second, etc. books in a series cause problems (like Tentacles this year). They just aren't going to be chosen as often by kids who haven't read the first book in the series.

  2. That's a good point, about series books. We're either giving kids a prerequisite, which isn't likely going to work, or having them miss a lot of enjoyment in a series by skipping the first book. I just cannot comprehend why we do put a book like Wimpy Kid on the list when our goal is to get kids reading - ostensibly books they haven't read. The guidelines say to vote, students have to have read 2 books - so assuming WK is on the ballot, we're really making them read only one.

    Hey volunteer readers, what books are you excited about? I'm glad to see A Season of Gifts by Peck on there, but you have a great point about series.

    Thanks for the comment!