Success By Bribery

I was going to write some more of my never ending adventures with Christina. I have a great story to tell, but Elena says that all of my blogs are about Christina. That’s probably true–she is the one that exasperates me the most. To be fair, today is about Elena.

Elena is bright (if I do say so myself), but she just didn’t have ANY interest in reading. This really bothered me. As a child I spent a large amount of time reading books with a flashlight under my covers. I read everything. One of the hardest feats in reading that I accomplished was reading the Lord of the Rings series in 5th grade. That was a challenge. How in the world could I give birth to a child that had no interest in reading.

SO, I went to the Tattered Cover to check out the juvenile fiction section. About 95% of the section was populated with books from some Fairy series or the Magic Tree House books. I bought a few books (they were really cheap), and I still didn’t have any luck.

Frustrated, I decided to read a few of the popular books that are around. I figured out pretty quickly why she didn’t like to read much. The writing is TERRIBLE in the new popular book series. I was really shocked at the low quality of the books that were being pushed on kids. I remember the Fudge and Ramona books from my day. They were books for kids that were written by writers. The books that I looked at were just words printed on a paper with a wizard or fairy to make them cool. I was NOT impressed.

I had no idea where to start. I was going to give Elena Superfudge, but I remembered her first grade teacher telling me that it talks about doubts about Santa. That was right around Christmas. Although Elena doesn’t believe in Santa, I didn’t need to remind her about that belief and have her ruin some other child’s Christmas. I looked at some other options before I ran into one of the new American Girl books.

Now, I have to be honest—I was not expecting much, but once I started reading the book I was interested in the story of the girl. I started looking at some of the other books and I was impressed at how history came alive in the lives of the characters.

I guess I’m a little idealistic. I want my kids to read books that improve their skills in reading. I don’t want to have them read just to check another book off a list. I think we’re already dumbing our kids down and making them immature by putting them at the center of the universe and entertaining them mindlessly at all times. Don’t even start me on the effect that texting is having on the younger generation’s writing skills…

Crossing my fingers, I handed Elena two of the books that I wanted her to read. She just sighed, put them in her room and then returned and asked if she could play on the Wii. This is going to be harder than I thought-she is already convinced that reading is boring. For a couple of days I tried to come up with a way to get her to start reading. One day I passed the books sitting on her nightstand and had an idea.

For Christmas I bought the kids all 1 large Christmas gift each. I bought Elena an American Girl doll. She had been hinting that she wanted more clothes for her doll, but they are so expensive that I knew that she would have to earn them. When I looked at the American Girl book, I figured that I could merge the two: She reads books and earns clothes for the American Girl doll. Perfect! I wish that my parents had paid me to read!

Elena was all over my proposition. She actually picked up one of the books and started to read it. Not long after that, she was hooked. I found her reading the books on her own. I even found her reading at night with a book light that I had stuffed in her stocking at Christmas. She was finally enjoying reading (and I was enjoying watching her read)!

Elena was told that if she read 4 chapter books (that I chose) she could get an outfit for her doll and one to match for her to wear. At first she talked about the outfits that she was going to pick. Now, she talks about the next book she is going to read. All it took was a good book and a little bribery. In fact, my sister just gave Christina an older American Girl doll. She just asked me today, “Mom, can I read to get clothes for my doll, too?” That made me smile!

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