Down for the Count
There has been an interesting discussion during the past few days on the PUBYAC listserv about what to do to prevent kids from reporting dishonestly on the number of minutes they have read during summer reading program ("Honesty in Counting Minutes" thread). Respondents have been wonderfully mellow about the phenomenon - who hasn't had a kid/parent stand there in great indignation when they are caught red-handed? We can grit our teeth but is there an effective way to prevent cheating?
No matter how one structures a program or service, there are always going to be folks who find a way around it. What often happens is that we look for so many ways to prevent those few cheaters from taking advantage of what we offer, that we end up making extra work or hoops to jump through for staff and patrons both. What begins as a good idea to promote reading, our services or our collection accumulates so much sludge that it becomes no fun and a burden.
I'd love to become more free and not worry so much about this. My favorite wisdom in the discussion so far is from Robin Colvin of Lincoln Parish Library: "Participation in summer reading programs is voluntary, not mandatory. Why worry about whether they are fudging time or not? As long as they are reading and enjoying books and the library, then I think your mission is accomplished. If you're worried about whether or not they have "earned" prizes for meeting certain time-spent-reading goals, make sure your prizes are not worth fudging time over. There is nothing yuckier than having the prizes for reading outweigh the prize of reading."
Those are words I can work by!