I am, I confess, a con artist.
I raised two boys. Let’s call number one Action Man. He never sat still so reading to him was purely a pain down under. Number two was the Collector, and still is judging by the ‘stuff’ on every horizontal surface of which he considers himself the occupier. You know who I’m talking about, right? Neither was a reader by inclination, much to the disgust of their mother.
So what did I do? I conned them, of course.
I paid them to read. Not in money exactly, but by points earned that went against the monetary value of big-ticket items. The new bike that was already on the Christmas shopping list was a classic example. Their innocence meant that they didn’t realise they only got what would have come their way in the natural course of events. They just read voraciously, especially after we established that the bigger the book, the more points you scored.
Soon it was Harry Potter, and that’s where it did cost me. I had to buy two copies of every book in the series, and still wait my turn.
The real reason I love to tell this story, though, is the priceless moment when Action Man woke up. He had just finished another book, and had obviously had a light-bulb moment. He said, ” [Expletive] I know why you did that now! You wanted to turn us into readers!”
The point? Do whatever it takes. Bribe them. Con them. Lie. Tease. As Judy Blume says:
“Before you give your child the beloved book, leave it lying around the house, preferably on your nightstand. Then, when your daughter asks about the book, tell her that you picked it up for her, but now you’re not sure she’s old enough for it.” (You can read Judy Blume’s other pointers here.)
Mine are both in their early twenties now, and don’t find as much time to read. They have busy lives, and you and I both know how many alternatives they have open to them. I take comfort, though, that when they go on holiday there is always a new book in tow, and they always want to tell me about it when it’s done. So, if I’m being honest with you, that’s what I really did. I read the books they read, we talked, we argued, we fell in love with the characters, and sometimes we cried. Well, I cried.
That’s how I know I turned my kids into readers. And became a con artist in the same breath.
How did you do it?
My thanks to Carrie for her post on the Services to Schools Southland Network group – linking to Judy’s advice above. Great inspiration.