The War on Achievements
by Alina C.
must start this post by apologizing in advance if I get a bit emotional. This story boils my blood, not only because I’m a mom, but because I was that kid when I was in school.
Tyler Weaver is a 9-year-old boy who attends Hudson Falls School in New York.
Every year, the Hudson Falls Public Library holds a “Dig into Reading” contest, The contest goes on for six weeks. Tyler has read about 373 books over the last five contests, Tyler, who starts the fifth grade next month, read a total of 63 books this year for the contest. His younger brother, Jonathan, achieved second place two years in a row, for reading more than 40 books. He is seven years old.
Pretty great, huh? Kids who love to read, who excel from such a young age… it says a lot, not only about these kids, but about their parents.
Well, the Library Director, Marie Grandon, doesn’t really think so. See, she feels that Tyler “hogs” the contest every year and should “step aside”.
Gandron further told the reporter she planned to change the rules of the contest so that instead of giving prizes to the children who read the most books, she would draw names out of a hat and declare winners that way. She said she can’t now because Katie has come forward to the newspaper.
Gandron said she has an “attitude” about the contest because several years ago a little girl came in claiming she had read more than 200 books. Her mother backed her up, but it was discovered the girl was lying.
The rules currently ask for each child to read books that are for their grade level or higher. Once a book is returned, the library aide asks the child questions to verify that they did, in fact, read the book.
Gandron admits that Tyler has fulfilled these requirements because he has always been able to answer all the questions.
Lita Casey, an aide at the library for 28 years, said she is usually the person who asks the questions to determine whether the children have done the reading. She keeps track of the number of books for each student and submits it to Gandron.
Casey said she enjoys working with all the kids at the library and doesn’t want her job to be in jeopardy, but she feels Gandron’s plan to change the rules of the contest are “ridiculous.”
Casey said everyone in the club is on a level playing field because all begin and end the same day and all have the opportunity to read as many books as they wish.
Some of the kids read the bare minimum (10 books) in order to receive an invitation to the end-of-year party.
Imagine my outrage upon running into this news. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a bookworm. My mom used to read to me, in both English and Spanish. To this day, my favorite thing to do when I have quiet time, is read.
Some of my dear friends tell me I’m the only weirdo they know who loves the “depressing” 18th century Brit lit. I digress.
We had these kinds of competitions at my school, except we would write book reports. The more book reports we turned in, the more little star stickers we’d receive. Ultimately, the student with the most stars would get a prize. As if I needed an incentive to read…
My parents always encouraged my thirst for knowledge. I can see Tyler’s parents do the same. Not only does he love to read, but he obviously likes to be in first place. That’s nothing short of AWESOME.
For some misguided library director to say he is hogging the competition is not only downright stupid, but she is risking giving an impressionable young child the idea that excelling is bad, and if you over-achieve, you will get penalized. (Sounds like society nowadays, as a whole.)
How dare she? I mean, really. How the hell does one think it’s OK to punish a child for being great at something, for having a passion and a skill, only to reward mediocrity? She proposes changing the rules so that the under-achievers get a free ride – a shot at a prize – for doing next to nothing. So, yeah…let’s teach kids that if they do the bare minimum, just to get by, they’ll still reap all the benefits. Sickening.
If the other kids want a top spot, then they should WORK for it. Hey, maybe reading isn’t their thing. Maybe it’s math, and if they compete in a math contest, they’d be in first place time and time again. (Side note: 3×4 is, in fact, NOT 11. It never has been and never will be. The answer is 12.)
I feel for Tyler. I really do. I can tell you that if this had happened to me at that age, it would have crushed me. Maybe Student of the Month, honor societies, being 8th grade valedictorian and winning medals for nearly every subject in competitions (OK, I’m bragging a little, but I earned my bragging rights) doesn’t matter at my age. It isn’t something I put on a resume. These accomplishments don’t determine my salary, but I will say this… those accomplishments are MINE, and I’m proud of them. However long ago it was, achieving these things, and being surrounded by family and educators who celebrated hard work, helped shape me into the woman I am today.
For the children…. stop rewarding mediocrity, and let these kids discover the thrill of earning their victory. It will make a huge difference in the type of person they become.