If you teach first grade (possibly in a school in Apex, North Carolina) and you want to reward your students for good behavior, you have some choices.
You can tell them that, because they've been so good, instead of regular morning work every Monday, they can have a special treat, such as doughnuts. Except you can't do that because of sugar. You can tell the kids they can do their homework early so they don't have to take it home, except you can't really do that because even in first grade kids are supposed to have homework every night. You can tell the kids they can go on the computer and play games. You can do that, because technology is educational. You can tell the kids they can watch PBS Kids for half an hour because TV is sort of technology, which is educational...
Or you could say, "You can read! You can read WHATEVER YOU WANT, no matter the level. You can wear pajamas to school. You can bring your favorite (fill in the blank). We can lie on the floor and have a miniature read-a-thon."
You can make reading a reward. What does that say when we make reading a treat, a treasure, a reward?
It says a whole lot about what the adults who are doing the rewarding consider a reward.
What are the rewards in your homes?
In ours, food is a huge reward. For example, right now, if the kids pick up after themselves, they can have cereal in the morning instead of oatmeal. There is probably something damaging in this—they will probably have cereal issues as adults—but it's working! They are picking up after themselves! So the end justifies the means. Right? Right?
Do I make reading a reward?
What about with the things we purchase? Do we say, if you earn this, you can download ten songs off Itunes? Or do we say, if you earn this, you can have three brand new books, straight off Amazon. Hardcover and everything.
If the family accomplishes something great, do you have a giant Friday night read-a-thon? Where everyone gets sleeping bags and pillows and popcorn and you read in groups or read on your own until ten o'clock at night?
We did that once. It was a disaster. There was fighting and very little reading. Everyone went to bed at eight o'clock. Including me and Sam.
This was over a year ago, and we haven't done it since, but I'm thinking we'll try again. Not because I think it will work now because they're older. I'm not sure it will ever "work." But they will get a message I can't give them any other way. That reading is a reward. One of the best rewards. And it's a family affair, worth popcorn and sleeping bags and mess.
If I don't do this, my children are going to think the best reward in the world is cereal or PBS Kids. And it's not. It's really, truly (really, truly!) not.
Onto some book recommendations...
If your middle grade boy (child) likes these:
And you want them to branch out to something just as exciting, just as full of adventure and the wild, but perhaps a little better written...
Give these a try—
Dogs of Winter by Debbie Pryon
Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice (Calvin really loved this one—quick read, but so well done)
Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmell
And if you or your child has not read this,
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Please fix that right now. Everyone should read this book. I envy the person who gets to read this book for the first time. Read Stone Fox this weekend during your giant family read-a-thon because the house is clean or they did a great job on the chores that week or just because. Just, just because.