I have not been a big fan of summer reading programs lately. There are a few reasons for this. Primarily, they all seem to demand a particular theme be followed. I suppose they are trying to encourage people to stretch their repertoire ... to read books they wouldn't normally select. Perhaps, they just want to package the program in an appealing way. I find that I personally read more when limits are lifted and I can pursue whatever tickles my own fancy. I'm betting that children read more when they are allowed to pursue their own interests, as well.
I was delighted when I discovered that our library was holding a Family Winter Reading program and that it was unstructured. I quickly signed our family up and created an on-line account to begin tracking our minutes. All we had to do was read. Then, we would list our selections and the minutes spent and write a brief review (accessible to other patrons).
For every 100 minutes of accumulated reading time, we were allowed one entry slip to be entered into six different basket options. We put most of our entry slips into the Family Movie Night basket drawing (although Trevor did occasionally beg to put one in each of the six envelopes).
The kids were asked to come to the library once a week to receive a sticker for their reading. At the end of the program, those with six stickers (we only had five, but they counted it as six, since we had clearly participated fully) earned a coupon for a free small curly fries at Arbys and could select one small toy from a toy bin.
On Monday of this week, we received a phone call from the library informing us that our family won the Family Movie Night basket. Yippee!
This is no chintzy prize! It contains 3 popular children's DVDs, plenty of movie snacks (Dots, Sno-Caps, pretzels, carmel corn and popcorn), and two gift certificates equalling $25 (one is for a local video store and one is for the library's book shop - oh, how I love that room).
Obviously, I'm going to read both for myself and to my children regardless of any incentive; reading is its own reward. But still, it is so much fun to see the kids excited about how many minutes we are racking up.
When we informed Bryce, my oldest son, of our win, I tried again to convince him that reading is beneficial. He still shook his head and said "Ne, Ne, Ne, Ne, Ne," in his classic tone and manner. However, he did try to finagle the Arby's coupons from his little brothers (Trevor put his foot down but Sean will probably curry big brother's favor and hand it over).
Actually, the other day Bryce and I were having an interesting discussion about his English class. I expressed my own opinion that I always hated teaching grammar, but loved the literature lessons. He said he is exactly the opposite, enjoying the grammar (which he finds comes quite easily) but hating the literature.
It was the first time I really thought about possible reasons for Bryce's verbal outcries against reading. I think up to this point, I may have assumed that they were merely meant to push my buttons, so to speak. I can accept the fact that he has a more mathematical mind. He loves the rules, the things that can be quantified. I appreciate the rules for helping to get the story out, but the story is the thing I'm after. I guess, I will cut Bryce some slack. I will never understand how he can choose mathematical things over literary things, and I will always feel like he's missing out on a great treasure, but I can thank God for his strengths even when they differ from my own.
In the meantime, I'm thankful that our library gave us such a wonderful opportunity. I'm thrilled that my little boys were motivated by it. I'm ecstatic that we actually took home a prize for doing something I'd be willing to pay to do - READ!