Sunday, March 7, 2010

Glad to Have My Problems

My two oldest children are book worms. My third child can't read, yet, but he seems interested and is likely to be just as able ...

My daughter, in particular, has been excessively interested lately in ignoring every aspect of life except reading. She loves serialized novels. She has absorbed the Harry Potter Books, the Percy Jackson books, and several other series, and is now in the middle of the Charlie Bones books.

Did I mention that my daughter is 8?

At the parent/teacher conference that my wife and I attended on Friday, our daughter's teacher had a list of the words per minute that each child in her class can read, sans names, and asked us which one we thought represented our daughter. We would have been surprised if she wasn't the top reader in the class, and we were not at all surprised to have that confirmed. The top number? 185 words per minute, a full 40 words per minute faster than the next kid.

Lately, we have been limiting her to 90 minutes of reading each day, which she thinks is just the most horrible thing in the world. She keeps track of her reading minutes because they get credit for it at her elementary school, earning awards and other forms of recognition. However, she does not read because of this, but rather because she has a tremendously active imagination and enjoys getting "sucked" into the worlds that she reads about in her novels.

So, tonight I went to put her to bed and noted that she had read over 3 1/2 hours today. Being Sunday, that didn't surprise me, but it clearly exceeded her 90 minute allocation. I told her I was taking her book away for the night, as I didn't want her staying up and reading after she was supposed to go to bed. Staying up doesn't do well for her because then she's grumpy the next day and doesn't focus well on her school work.

Well, an hour later my youngest child got up crying for some reason (he had to go to the bathroom and was too tired to realize it), and I discovered my daughter very alert and awake, trying to help her brother. Why was she up? It definitely wasn't because her younger brother woke her up -- that girl can sleep through a train wreck. At this point, you should easily be able to guess. Of course, she was reading.

I was not very happy. I knew for a fact that she hadn't retrieved the book I had taken from her, so I was somewhat miffed to find out that she had simply got out of bed and indiscriminately grabbed some book off her bookshelf in her room. I was more unhappy about her blatant disobedience (I had clearly told her earlier that she was to stop reading and to go to sleep) than the fact she was reading.

Clearly caught in the act, the punishment had to fit the crime. She would not be allowed to read the next day. I figured this was quite fair, as she had already read 4 1/2 (!) hours today. Even so, you would have thought I had threatened to pull her teeth out the next day. Her eyes got big, she hunkered down in bed, and she started to whimper.

No amount of reasoning with her would satisfy her. Her mean ol' dad took away her reading privileges! It was only after I placed conditions on her so that she could "earn" back her reading privileges that she calmed down: she must get out of bed in the morning without a fuss, she must be cooperative and cheerful, and she must get her homework done after school without a fight. If she does these things, then she will be allowed to read before she goes to bed, as is traditional.

It's an interesting problem. Honestly, how many kids do you know that are like this anymore? If you replaced the word "reading" with "playing on her DS" throughout this post, then this would be a far more contemporary experience, but in today's world it's just downright weird.

But, you know, I realize how blessed my little family is to have "problems" like this. You know the old expression? "If everybody got together and threw their problems up in the air, after seeing everybody else's we'd all scramble to get back our own?" Well, I wouldn't even throw mine -- I think I'll just keep 'em, thank you very much.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

We have the exact same problem with Chloe. I've had to resort to threatening to take away all of her books before. Luckily, that did the trick. I'm actually glad to know we're not the only ones in this boat.

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