How to Suck the Joy Out of Reading

I have a love/hate relationship with social media but one thing it’s definitely good at is mining old memories. Recently when I was scrolling through my news feed I saw something about school reading logs and all of sudden I was sucked into a vortex of fury.   

Yep, that’s right – something as seemingly inconsequential as an elementary school reading log set me off. For those of you innocent in the ways of reading logs, they are an educational tool for children to keep track of the number of books they’ve read. My wrath was specifically directed at summer reading logs. As a mom I despised them. I’ve always thought if you want to make kids think of reading as a chore give them a summer reading log. 

When my kids were little, I told them to ditch the log and read for the sheer joy and pleasure of falling in love with a book. Too bad if this meant they didn’t receive a prize for most books read or get invited to the pizza party. It’s not like I didn’t know the way to the nearest Dominos.

My renegade mom attitude was based on a very unscientific study (my observations) that all the summer reading logs did was to encourage kids to read books way below their grade level so they could pad the number of books they read and get a higher page count. It also encouraged fibbing especially if the log tracked the hours a child read. 

Then there’s the issue that the logs seemed to embolden parental bad behavior. Of course, no one should be surprised by this. If it’s a competition with a prize attached there’s always a handful of parents that are going to lose their minds.

When my family lived on the West Coast there was a summer reading log throw down over a fourth grader who had read basically preschool books and won the trophy for most books read over the summer. 

Parents, who took these kinds of awards very seriously because I guess they thought an Ivy League college admission team would be impressed by an elementary school honor, were incensed to the point of threatening legal recourse. The final judgement was that the child’s award stood because the parents of the reading log winner, (both attorneys) said “nowhere in the award criteria did it specify what books could or could not be read.”

My other school reading annoyance is something known as Battle of the Books. This is a competition where kids can voluntarily sign up to put on teams led by parent coaches (I was one of them.) and compete by being grilled on minuscule details on ten assigned books. And by minuscule I’m talking nitpicky stuff like what color of socks did a minor character wear on page 114.

I understand the value of good reading comprehension, but this was a “battle” that sucked every ounce of delight from bonding with a book. It was sheer drudgery and as a parent and a lover of reading (like I could read all day everyday) I felt I was doing the kids a disservice. 

My daughter, who took part in this, years later told me that the experience was so bad it took two years for her to actually enjoy reading again. 

I’m not an educator so I’ll admit my views on reading competitions via “logs” or “battles” are not based on years of research by people with advanced degrees. But as a mother I think when you turn reading into a competitive sport you lose everything that makes it magical and that means you also lose at turning children into lifelong readers.

📚While we are on the topic of reading I have a new book coming out at the end of the month. You can pre-order an ebook on Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s a little peek at the fun:

They’re broke, bitter and not ready to give up without a fight.

Three middle-aged women who have seen their carefully crafted lives take a precipitous financial plunge, forge an unlikely friendship while getting paid to take part in a clinical trial for a new menopause drug. The trio spends a month sequestered at a pharmaceutical testing facility that has all the charm of a nail salon inside a Walmart, and bond over their anger and disbelief that their only hope for some quick cash is leveraging the remaining estrogen they have lurking in their ovaries. 

Each of these women has a recent story of their existence hurtling to hell. Maria had a career catastrophe so epic that googling her name is now painful. Cassie’s extreme vanity took an ugly turn and Julie’s husband didn’t just walk out on their marriage, he disappeared with all the money

Once they become roommates, this cadre of unlikely friends merge their talents to find Julie’s missing husband and her half of the “marital assets.” Maria has major accounting mojo, Julie has connections, and Cassie, a former soap opera actress, has acquired an assortment of shady skills during her Hollywood tenure.

As they plot, scheme, and embark on an adventure to find an AWOL spouse, they learn how to fight back against a world they believe deems them old and insignificant and, in the process, discover that fifty is when life gets fun, especially when you can get even.