The Ugly Myth of “Too Much Reading”

When I read Gawker’s post on Marie Gandron, director of the Hudson Falls boy readingPublic Library, admitting to telling nine year old Tyler Weaver that he “reads too much” I thought, perhaps, I’d missed something. Surely someone who has cultivated a career based on the love of the written word, wouldn’t tell an impressionable child that the theory of “reading too much” was actually real.

But, sadly, that’s exactly what Gandron told Tyler.

As the article states, “Gandron accussed Tyler of ‘hogging” the summer reading club’s annual ‘Dig into Reading’ competition, because he’s taken the top prize five years in a row.

The contest requires each participating child to read at least 10 books over the course of six weeks in order to get invited to an end-of-summer party.

By comparison, Tyler won the latest event by reading 63 books in just over a month.”

It seems Gandron believes that Tyler’s exuberance isn’t fair to other children participating in the program. The library has even tested Tyler on the books he read, making sure that he and his family weren’t lying about the amount of books he read. Tyler passed the test. In fact, according to the article, Tyler has read 373 books during the past five contests.

So, what is Gandron’s problem? What is Tyler’s sin?

Is it that Gandron doesn’t believe that children should be competing against such a voracious reader? Is it that she believes that reading so much will be a detriment to Tyler’s young mind? Is that even possible?

Tyler’s sin, it seems, is that he loves books too much, reads too enthusiastically. He isn’t sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. He isn’t consistently texting. He isn’t slumped down in front of an X Box or PlayStation killing zombies or even spending his free time annoying his Facebook friends by obsessively sending them Candy Crush requests.

No, this amazing little boy is reading. He’s jumping inside impossible worlds. He’s flying and soaring and propelling himself into the beauty and magic of his own imagination. And, let’s be honest, that’s just a completely horrid thing for a kid to do, right? At least, that’s what Gandron seems to believe.

This librarian wants to stifle something that is clearly a love for Tyler. She wants to hinder his thirst for knowledge. She wants him to give other children a chance to beat him by discouraging a child to stop reading. She wants to equal the playing field by taking out her star quarterback.

For me, there is no such thing as “too much reading.” There is no limit to the human mind and certainly not to the imagination and both are enhanced, made vivid, made wholly better by reading.

“Lita Casey, a library aide who has been at Hudson Falls for 28 years, opposes Gandron’s personal vendetta against Tyler, and has phoned a library board member to complain.

According to Casey, Tyler’s desire to read isn’t motivated by a desire to win a silly contest, but by a precocious love of knowledge.

As a testament to Tyler’s love of reading, Casey said that a few years ago, the summer theme centered on regions of the United States. Kids were supposed to read a book on each section of the country. A few children dropped out of the program because they didn’t like the subject matter, Casey said, but Tyler read at least one book on each of the 50 states.

Meanwhile, most of the other kids are just reading the bare minimum in order to get a party invite, Casey said.”

Tyler’s mother, Katie, said that her children wouldn’t be participating in the program if Gandron changes the rules because of Tyler’s performance. Casey said she feels the library will suffer as a result. But it’s not just libraries that suffer when children don’t read. It’s all of us.

Imagine a world were technology consumes us, more so that it already does. Imagine a school with no books, no libraries, no foster of the fantastic available to children through words written. In fact, if that world existed, you couldn’t imagine it because you, having been a child raised in a world with none of those things wouldn’t have the skills necessary to channel the imagination.

Books change us. They excite us, they compel us to question, to fight, to believe in the possibility of the improbable; they are the wombs of young minds, the incubators of creativity.

Kill that, suppress that, and we are left with nothing.

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