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While I encountered all the common issues while raising my kids to the age they’re at now, I have to say that the current phase of parenthood is proving most difficult. My girls are ages 10 and 12 at the moment, but I will have an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old in a matter of weeks. Instead of dealing with the diapers and napping schedules from years past, I’m now dealing with “tween” attitudes and lack of motivation in general.
Case in point: My youngest child stopped doing tasks she wasn’t expressly asked to do a few years ago, and that includes anything from putting her cereal bowl in the sink to basic hygiene. The result of that is me having to tell her to do everything over and over again, from brushing her teeth to taking a daily shower. It’s not that she won’t do those things if asked; she just doesn’t do anything without being prompted.
Unfortunately, this same theme applies to schoolwork and to reading, and her reading grades in particular were starting to show it. After some conversations with my husband, we decided to do something about it.
Like any other family, we struggle with getting on a consistent schedule when it comes to household chores, homework, and reading. My husband and I both work, too, so we don’t always have the energy to constantly remind ourselves (and the kids) of things that need to be done. We used to have a goal of having our kids read 30 minutes a day, but we get busy and forget and our kids definitely don’t remind us.
That’s why, starting at the beginning of 2022, we began offering our two children $10 for each book they read with the promise of a monthly payout. Aside from reading, all they have to do is create a written invoice for the awesome books they read in any given month. Then, at the end of the month, they get cash for each book they read from start to finish.
While that may seem like bribery for something my kids should be doing anyway, we already decided that $10 per book is well worth the investment in our eyes. Research shows that kids who read get a leg up on their peers when it comes to learning. Kids who read also tend to have larger vocabularies, and they improve their comprehension on a faster timeline.
Of course, reading also gets children to use their imaginations, and to get involved in something that doesn’t require WiFi — a rarity these days.
On a personal level, we decided all those reasons were good enough to pay for each book finished, whether they choose popular books or ones we have never heard of. So, that’s exactly what we started doing.
When we first told our kids we would pay them $10 for each book read from beginning to end, they could hardly believe it. My money-motivated oldest child started doing the math right away.
“Does this mean I could earn $100 per month for 10 books and $1,200 per year if I did it all year?” she asked.
I hadn’t quite added up the long-term costs of our offer, but I told her that was the case.
From that day forward, my kids started reading more often and for longer stretches of time. My oldest child (who is a reader already) became more focused on finishing books than she was before. She finished eight books and earned $80 in the first month after we started this incentive, and she earned $70 for seven books in the month of February.
The change was even greater for my youngest child who finished a total of one or two books (if that) during the whole year in 2021. She is not quite as money-motivated and she reads a little slower, but she still finished five books during the first month we began paying for reading. She keeps an ongoing log in her room that shows the books she’s finished, and she is on track to read the same number of books this month, too.
My husband and I frequently ask her about the books she is reading, and we can already tell that her comprehension is improving dramatically. Where she once had trouble explaining what she just read, she now sits us down to spill details on the characters and storylines she’s most interested in. And while we ask her to read 30 minutes a day at a minimum, she frequently gets lost in her books and reads far longer than that minimum amount.
I’m currently paying more than $100 per month for my kids to read books, which puts this bill on par with other household expenses like our cable bill and phone bill. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’m more than thrilled with the return-on-investment I have received so far.
Funny enough, both of my children have used some of their earnings so far to buy more books. If I would have known spending $100+ per month would help me achieve that kind of result, I would have started years ago.
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