She Hurts My Soul

We’re doing a summer reading challenge at my house with #2-#5. We let #1 off the hook because she done graduated.

Schools send home a suggested summer reading list with the kids on- wait, I don’t actually know when they do this. Last day of school? It doesn’t seem the list would have a very good shot at making it home if that were the case. Second-t0-last day of school? Do they mail it the week after school gets out? I have no idea. I only know that the list for each kid always makes it up onto either the bulletin board or the fridge, with one exception.

I’m lookin’ at you, #4.

Not that all the other kids eagerly hit their summer reading lists before they start sleeping til noon, eating popsicles for breakfast, and staying in their pajamas until dinnertime. The only one who reads voluntarily even if we’re not having a power outage is #2.

But their lists always go up. Then we commence ten weeks of them not reading anything on their lists, and me using ineffective methods of trying to get them to read.

This is baffling to me. My mom used to have to force me away from my books.

This year I gave each kid a certain number of pages to read every day, the equivalent of twenty to thirty minutes of reading. It’s what they supposedly do anyway during the school year.

There’s even a reward: if they all meet their page goals I’ll buy them a new Wii game. No, the irony is not lost on me. Get off my ass.

Here’s our progress:

  • Immediately after we started the challenge, #2 went away to volleyball camp at the Naval Academy. Even while playing approximately 187,046 minutes of volleyball every single day, she finished her entire six weeks of reading in ten days.
  • #3 dug into her list and our bookshelves and found some things she liked. This is a first. She stayed up late many nights reading, not texting boys. I know this with certainty because her phone is broken. She liked The Lovely Bones and The Maze Runner. She finished last week.
  • #4 acted as if I were asking her to strangle kittens instead of read.
  • #5 loves the Magic Tree House books. They were on his list last year, but I think this late interest is a result of him being a full year younger than most of his classmates. I’m cool with that. He likes to come into our room to read because it’s quiet.
  • #4 now isn’t even keeping up with lying to me about reading.

After the first week of the challenge, all the kids give me updates. #4 tries to escape. I call her back into the kitchen.

Me: How’s your reading?

#4: Good.

Me: How much have you read?

#4: Um. I don’t know.

Me, narrowing my eyes at her: Have you read at all?

#4: Yes! I was just in my room for twenty minutes reading!

Me: Well, what’s going on in your book?

#4: Um, I can’t remember.

I make her bring it to me. The book is a challenge for her, which is the point. She’s heading into sixth grade and needs to step up. I try to come up with ideas to help. I tell her that as long as she makes an honest effort, I’ll count it. She can fall short of the goal, but if she’s trying, we can work something out. She reads nine pages out loud to me while we’re in the kitchen. It’s a good book.

I think that’s the last time she reads.

I got home from work the other night and found this:

Her jotted-down user name and password for a kids online gaming/virtual world site.



You hurt my soul, #4.

Not to be a total doomsayer, but I’m fairly confident she won’t miraculously bust out her reading chops over the next two weeks. Overall, the challenge has been a success: two of three kids who swore they hated to read are liking reading.

#4 is a happy, well-adjusted, smart kid with good grades who would just rather be swimming or skateboarding or pretty much anything else besides reading. She has a ton of friends and whenever she gets in trouble, it’s usually hilarious. Not a bad place to be, really.

But what about the reading challenge reward? The deal was that all kids had to make their goals to get the Wii game. I can’t very well get a game and be all like, “Don’t let your sister play it!”

I’m open to ideas (unless you live in this house and I refer to you by number, in which case a suggestion such as “Give them their own Wii and TV in their rooms!” will just earn you extra chores).

How do I reward the kids who made their reading goals?