Jul 2, 2009

Thu: I Miss the Library’s Summer Reading Program

A long, long time ago I remember I used to get paid to read. It didn’t really matter what I read, a newspaper, a novel, the Bible, or the instructions to a video game, it all paid the same. “Paid” is a pretty word for what was really going on however. More accurately I was being bribed. Brainwashed into thinking that reading was a good thing and the more you read the greater rewards you would reap. I was young and being manipulated by the public library. It was a good time.

I’m not sure if you (the reader) ever took part in a summer reading program so I’ll briefly explain how this little scheme works. Kids are given a colorful, fun looking boardgame type paper with different paths laid out. Like any boardgame the paths consist of spaces and in the world of Summer Reading Programs a space was equal to 30 minutes of reading. The idea being that for every 30 minutes of reading a kid completed, they were rewarded with progress on this board, which when they finished a path could be shown to a librarian at their local library who would then reward the kid with various prizes. Starting to see some similarities to bribery?

Let’s talk about the prizes for a second. The prizes were basically exactly what every kid ages 6-9 dreamt prizes to be. I can remember winning a small plastic bowling set, one of those cups with a ball attached that you have to swing and try and catch the ball in (I believe the cool name for them is a Bolero), pencils, stickers, amazing book markers, one of those wooden racquets with a ball attached to it by an elastic cord (which gets my vote for the most disappointing toy ever), kaleidoscopes, and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting. To add to the greatness of these prizes was that you picked them out of a giant treasure chest. And in case you forgot, a treasure chest is basically one of the top 3 things a kid ever hopes to encounter in their young lives (the other 2 are probably a mish-mash of a rocket, a favorite animal, and/or Santa Clause). Along with the tangible prizes that you took home that same day, you could also put your name in a drawing for other stuff like movie tickets, passes to the wave pool, or a bunch of other pretty cool things. I vaguely remember winning passes to the wave pool once, but the only thing that ever really stuck in my mind from those drawings was my brother winning a poster from Jurassic Park. We had that poster hanging up in our room for man years to come. I wonder what ever happened to that thing.

The Summer Reading program taught me a lot of things. It taught me about the honor system. You were in charge of filling in your spaces yourself for the most part and it occurred to me on more than one occasion that no one would ever know if I had really read all these 30 minute blocks, that I could just initial some boxes and be on my way to treasure chest glory. I’m not really sure what kept me from doing that exactly, maybe my parents and my upbringing, maybe the work of the Holy Spirit convicting me, maybe the librarians at my library that always had an intense look practiced that gave the impression that they could see right into your inner core (to discourage against fines and book abuse allegedly).

The reading program also taught kids something else, it taught them that summers could be productive. That this time could be used to keep busy, to keep learning, and accomplishing. Something that’s been hard to keep in mind this summer as I finally have no real end to the “summer” in sight. I’m not going back to school. I’m not just biding time between semesters. I’m forever in that world where productivity is something that isn’t forced down the throat (a la school) but created through desire for things in treasure chests. One of the verses I was given for encouragement this summer was Isaiah 45:3. It talks about the treasures God promises us, that he has stored for us. So I now realize that as great as the Summer Reading Programs and all their prizes and hoopla were, I’ve appropriately moved on and yet God still takes pleasure in revealing and surprising me with His treasures chests which he “stored in secret dark places” just for me. It’s been and will be an exciting summer. Even without Jurassic Park posters.

1 comment:

  1. Wait a minute....I did the summer reading program in St. Louis and I don't remember getting any prizes! Was I cheated out of some sweet prizes, or am I just not remembering correctly?... hmm...