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Start Them Young: How I bribed my child to stop reading chapter books and learn to love literature.

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

I'm generally not a big believer in bribing children. I prefer outsmarting or overpowering them. Eventually, they grow, and you have to resort to logic and inspiration, the exact same methods I used with employees over my twenty-year business career. I have found that if people have a reason to be inspired, they tend to overachieve.

So, back to the bribery. Anyone who has children knows what a chapter book is. Like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, they are relatively short books that put the same characters in different situations in each book. I loved reading as a child and stayed up far later than my parents knew reading Nancy Drew under the covers.

Many of today's chapter books, as with much of today's children's literature, are incredibly good. This is fortunate, as I decided to read everything my kid read. We went through all of the A-Z Mysteries (Ron Roy), a huge number of Magic Tree House books (Mary Pope Osborne), and many others. Then he found a series where a young man and his human and animal friends went on a quest to kill a different beast in each book. Giant spiders, giant scorpions, giant squid - book after book. I just couldn't do it anymore.

I also knew that he needed something different. He read his twenty minutes a day as required by his fourth-grade teacher, but he had never loved to read and quickly put his book away at the twenty-minute mark.

So I bribed him to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Unfortunately, I didn't do my research, and off the top of my head told him I'd give him $10 a chapter to read it. There are seventeen chapters in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - $170 - far more than I had planned, and a windfall for a kid.

Fortunately for me, it worked. He loved the book so much that he told me I didn't have to pay him (I didn't) and he plowed through the rest of the series. He hasn't stopped since. Last year I introduced him to one of my favorite books, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and I caught him reading my copy of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson earlier this year.

Bribery may not always work, but with reading it can take your kids from monsters to magic, and beyond.

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