By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama
First, an update: Ladybug finally lost her first baby tooth and the Tooth Fairy made sure she had a delicious chocolate petit four (with a tiny pink rosebud on top) to eat for breakfast. It was surrounded by “fairy dust”, a.k.a. edible sugar from the bakery. The Tooth Fairy sprinkled it all around, in fact, especially near the $5 bill that she left. Which the Tooth Fairy was compelled to leave after Miss Carolyn, her neighbor on Tooth Castle Lane, mentioned to Ladybug the going rate for a first tooth at her house.
On to today’s post: My husband and I are both avid readers. It’s just heavenly if I can hang out by a swimming pool and read a good book. Or really, just hang out most anywhere and read a good book. So I secretly thought Ladybug would just come by the whole reading thing naturally. That she would just pick it up one day, probably before kindergarten, and I would marvel that she just read a whole book to me. A whole book! But then it was time for kindergarten to start and there were only a few words in her spelling repertoire, like her name, mom, dad, cat and dog. Still, I thought, she’ll be reading like a champ after kindergarten gets into full swing. But kindergarten came and went and while I was truly enthused to see her reading, I was still a little concerned that she wasn’t reading fluently.
Still, I wasn’t going to get all freaked out. I figured she’d learn to read at her own pace. In fact, I knew there was no correlation between reading “early” and reading well later in life.
Now, nearly two months into first grade, I feel like maybe the lack of discipline about homework thing might have something to do with the reading thing. I was talking to a friend about it the other day and she suggested some kind of incentive, maybe a chart? “Not another chart,” I whined. “Stickers don’t work for this kid!”
Well, if there’s something that she really wants, my friend said, she can “earn” it by reading books. No, not a new concept, but one I hadn’t tried for reading.
I decided it was better than doing nothing. Plus, I figured all children could use an extra dose of delayed gratification, after all. Waiting for something good builds character.
On the way home from the park, I shared my hastily cobbled together plan with Ladybug: after you read seven books to mom or dad you can get into the “home treasure chest.” This language is familiar to her, since Ladybug has a treasure chest at school. If her behavior at school is such that she stays on “green” all week, she’s allowed to snag something from the treasure chest on Friday.
I was still dubious about her participation in the Great Reading Experiment, but she said immediately, “Let’s read as soon as we get home!” So she read one book, then another, then another.
“I’m really getting into this reading thing!” she announced.
I rubbed my hands together with glee.
She read four books after school. (And when I say “read,” of course I helped with hard words and didn’t have her reading Shakespeare.)
The next day, I went to Deals and bought some inexpensive items: a stuffed orca (this was perfect for my whale-loving girl), some heart-shaped cupcake tins and icing for a baking project together, glow sticks, a glow necklace and a pumpkin Halloween lantern.
After I picked her up from school, I reminded her that she only had to read three more books and she could feast her eyes on the home treasure box.
So she did.
When the time came to claim her prize, she meticulously looked at everything, then picked the orca.
“Dance around the fire and say happy days are here again!” she said as she did a little jig around the living room with her treasure.
Then she asked if she could trade.
“Sure, sure,” I said. She then went for the glow sticks. It was getting dark and her dad was going to be out late, so I suggested an impromptu night romp with her new toys. We had a blast, playing hide the glow sticks, sword-fighting and glow stick chase.
I’ve since knocked the number of books she has to read down to five to get a prize. And once she fills up the whole chart (five books for each week, or, if she really wants to zip through it, five books a day) she gets a “SUPER COOL” prize yet to be determined. Possibly it will be a cool outing — I’m thinking ice cream and, after that, Jump Zone to run it off.
We’re getting close. Only eight more books to go!