‘Costco, Don’t Give Up on America as a Nation of Readers’: The Week 1 Winner of Our Summer Reading Contest

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‘Costco, Don’t Give Up on America as a Nation of Readers’: The Week 1 Winner of Our Summer Reading Contest

For 15 years, our Summer Reading Contest has been inviting teenagers around the world to tell us what New York Times pieces get their attention and why. Up until now, students could only enter by posting short written comments, but this year we’re also allowing 90-second video responses.

That’s why this week, the first of our 10-week challenge, we’re featuring both the winning essay by Daphne Nguyen as well as our three favorite videos. Though the vast majority of the 509 submissions this time around were written, we hope to encourage more students to experiment with video.

Scroll down to see this work, along with a list of runners-up and honorable mentions. As you go, note the variety of topics that caught the eyes of these teens, including pieces about A.I., Alzheimer’s, Asian grocery chains, gardening, cockroaches, rom-coms and the saga of J. Lo and Ben Affleck.

You can read the work of all of our winners since 2017 in this column. And remember that you can participate any or every week this summer until Aug. 16. Just check the top of our contest announcement to find the right place to submit your response.

Daphne Nguyen, 16, from San Jose, Calif., responded to a June news item, “Costco Plans to Stop Selling Books Year-Round,” by writing:

I like books, and I also like Costco. Like many of us, I spend time with both of them regularly. I carry a paperback so I can stop looking at my phone, even during our weekly Costco run.

So I was genuinely disconcerted to read that “Costco Plans to Stop Selling Books Year-Round” and offer them only during the holiday season. I guess books are a nice gift for someone else, but not something you’d want for yourself?

Or for your children? In fact, the Costco book section is thoughtfully curated for the entire shopping family. There are “My Busy Book” play sets, special C.S. Lewis box sets, and best sellers like “Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yaros. The aisle feels fun and inviting, not dated or out of place.

Costco says that books are inconvenient to sell because they have to be specially unpacked off the pallet and changed out weekly for new releases. That seems like the “it’s not you, it’s me” break-up routine. And it seems like a cop-out. They’ve got plenty of people buzzing around doing all kinds of things — what about the staffers constantly refolding clothes?

Costco’s ingenuity shines with the $6 rotisserie chicken. Why not get creative with books? Put Oprah’s top picks at the check-out lines! Surprise us with cookbooks around the food aisles!

What Costco stocks is what America buys. So Costco, don’t give on America as a nation of readers, educated citizens of a democracy. And please don’t give up on books.

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Andrew Han on “Don’t Call It an ‘Ethnic’ Grocery Store