Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. How do you know if a person is cheating on the Summer Reading Challenge?

In the thick of the Summer Reading Challenge, not everyone believes we should trust the readers...they ask us; How do you know if someone is cheating; filling in their reading log with stickers without actually reading anything at all?!?!!

Q: How do you know if a person is just cheating by filling in all the stickers but not reading?A volunteer (unnamed) looking sneaky with her reading log.

A: We don’t know!

Of the approximately 500 kids who have signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge at my branch library, only 3 have had the audacity to ask this question.

However, at the beginning of June, when I visited classrooms at a number of Oakland Public Schools (all the children's librarians do this every May & June) to tell kids about the Summer Reading Program, another dozen kids asked the same question. At every school, there is always at least one person, usually in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, who asks me, "What if someone cheats and fills in all the stickers without reading anything at all?"

So I've answered this question a LOT. Here is what I say:

Bookshelves at Oakland LibraryWe use the honor system, which means we trust you to read a little every day (we count days; not time, not books). We are confident that it's more fun to read something than it is to lie about it and then skulk around feeling like a cheater. 

However, if you are one of the people who can't find anything you want to read for 15 (or even 5) minutes a day, you need to come talk to me!  We have over 30,000 kids books at my branch alone, and it's my job to find the 1 book you really, really, really want to read this summer. (Maybe that is why we call it the Summer Reading Challenge!)

Everyone needs help finding the right book sometimes. If you haven't yet found the book that makes you want to read, it's could be because you haven't yet asked your librarian for help. Come talk to me, and I will do everything I can to find the best book - the greatest book - the most fantastic book for you! 

You know what else? This is your summer vacation! We want you to be able to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy yourself. You get to pick whatever you want to read, so the 15 minutes a day should be 15 minutes that please you. If you hate fiction, pick up some non-fiction. If you had a bad experience with a fantasy that all your friends loved, try some science fiction, or a mystery. If you are sick and tired of comic books, read some history - or vice-versa!

If we can't find a book that looks like fun for you to read, then probably what we need to do is find a book that looks like fun to hear read aloud. (I wish we had 20 copies of The True Meaning of Smekday - a patron recommended it to me and it's the best.) It's my opinion that kids who don't like to read should sit back, close their eyes, and listen to a wonderful story reader. Usually, it's your mom or dad, a grandparent, or a sibling. If they are all busy, then there are professional story readers who make recorded books that you can listen to on CDs or as downloadable audiobooks.

I'm not worried about you cheating, but it will break my heart if I missed the chance to help you find a good book.

If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help.

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