A few years ago, I spent a month helping my son with his three children (8, 7, and 5). Instead of spending my days meeting writing deadlines, I was managing school schedules, plus ballet, and Spanish and chess lessons. After school, my grandkids were allowed 30 minutes of computer games. And they were required to read for 30 minutes after homework. At least during reading and computer time I could answer emails, cook, fold laundry…. Time to read for pleasure? Hardly.
During a decade of teaching children’s literature in Denver, I built a substantial collection of kids’ books, now housed in my son’s home. During reading time, my grandkids would browse the shelves and take a book to their rooms. After 15 minutes or so, I’d hear “How many minutes do I have left?” I never heard that when they were on the computer. And I confess that sometimes I let them stay on just a bit longer because, well, I was busy!
But I wanted them to love reading like me. This reading in their bedrooms just wasn’t working. So, one day, I announced that we were going to all read together. I had them bring their books into the living room. I set the timer. They sprawled out on the floor. I eased on to the couch. They read. I read. Bliss.
After the timer went off, I kept reading as they put their books away. One grandson asked, “The timer went off. Why are you still reading?” I responded with “Why quit? It’s a great book.”
After a couple of weeks, my son came home during reading time. Usually his arrival prompted chaos. Instead, they just kept reading. I slipped into the kitchen, and we chatted for a bit. He peeked into the living room at the three kids fully absorbed in their books, and said, “Look what you’ve done….” Just then, the timer went off…and they kept reading.
Now there are four kids in this busy family. I was recently visiting during football season. They were all piled on the couch watching a game. The youngest played on Dad’s lap. The oldest watched the game. The other two—well, they were buried in their books.