Friday, August 6, 2010

day 203: a book a week

"A good book should leave you slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it." ~William Styron

Over a year ago, we established a good reading routine that I would like to share with other “Positive Parents.” My older kids read a lot; well, that is an understatement when describing my first two kids. Joshua and Kayla easily read two to three chapter books a week during middle school and continued that avid reading practice in high school with much more than just “junior fiction.” (As adults, the two of them always have three to five books each going on—audio books, fiction, non-fiction, research, etc.) While I was sometimes concerned that they read too much, I was pleasantly surprised when that “junior high reading habit” grew into a more mature reading habit in which they read wide varieties of materials—fiction, biographical, historical, devotional, and more.

I found myself, however, with three “little boys” who loved to listen to me read (practically anything)—and who readily devoured their devotionals and sections of non-fiction books (like Usborne, Dorling Kindersley, Eyewitness, etc.), but did not enjoy sitting down and reading an entire book—whether fiction or non-fiction. As a matter of fact, I could hardly get them to read fiction at all. Even though they loved devotional and non-fiction writing to a large extent, I knew that I would have to intervene to make true readers out of them—to help them love all types of reading, see the value of varied reading, and enjoy the process.

So well over a year ago now, I instituted the “book a week” program in our home. Basically, this meant that each of them had to read a book every week at his level. To be sure that my goal of “varied reading” was accomplished, I allowed them to choose one book, then the next week I would choose the book. If a book was especially lengthy for that boy’s level, I would make it a two week book.

At first, it was hard—many a Fridays at 5:00, books were not read without good reasons. (Busy-ness in the family, a lot of work that week for TFT, or other logical excuses were always accepted as valid reasons for not getting a book read that week, of course.) I offered extensions at first—until Sunday at bedtime but with the next week’s book still due on Friday, regardless of when the next week’s book was begun. (I like for them to start books on Friday as soon as the previous one is finished, taking it with them when we go away on weekends, reading in bed on Friday night or Saturday night when bedtimes are not so crucial.)

With our two oldest (of the youngest kids!), we fell into an awesome reading routine. They would stack books up to prepare for upcoming weeks, looking forward to the books that they would “get” to read. With the then-ten year old, a little more effort was needed, including loss of privileges many, many times when a book was not done, double book weeks when a book was left at a motel or Grandpa’s, etc.

This single practice of “a book a week” has been one of the best things we have done for our boys’ reading development and love. They have been so challenged by biographies; changed by inspirational and devotional writings; moved by great literature; and entertained by fiction. Whether your child goes to school or does school at home, I highly recommend this practice. This summer I am trying to apply it to myself as well. And I, too, am enjoying my “book a week.”


  1. What privileges did you take away when they did not finish their books on time?

    My oldest 3 children were always AVID READERS and read nearly every book in our house (which believe me is a TON!) My 4th child has never been able to sit still and stop talking long enough to enjoy a book! ;) My 5th child read a good bit until he hit his teen years.

    Like yours, my younger children are not into reading. I hate it because they barely read at all. In the old days we didn't have electronic entertainment. Now we have TV, DVD players, computers, and even an X-Box. (We never bought the X box -- our 20 year old son did and brought it back with home when he came home from college.) It is just hard to compete with that.

    I think I'm going to try your plan this year. I had planned to be strict about reading this summer, but then our lives went haywire and I was not able to implement any of my big plans!

    So, tell me how to get started with this new book a week plan! (And what to do when they have not completed a book!)

  2. We have found that anything we want done has got to be a huge part of our life--not something we tack on or hope gets done. Here are a few tips:

    1. Help them divide their books out---okay 120 page; six days; 20 pages a day.

    2. Allow a reading time each day (in the afternoon for us) it gets done

    3. Time and date due...nothing else if that isn't done (without good reason, as I said...we can cause them not to get them done by too many projects etc.)...Friday 5:00 or nothing but reading until done..

    4. If consistently a problem, we assigned two books the next week and followed up daily

    5. If hassle all the time, have daily due dates, not weekly--20 pages due each day before free time, etc.

    Hope this helps!

  3. I would add electronic free week or weeks if multiple kids have problems with the reading....we have found it beneficial to still keep electronics down as much as possible...