I have two amazing sons. Albert is twenty, Thomas is seventeen, both are avid readers—but it wasn’t always that way. When Albert was 10, and Thomas was 7, reading was more like a chore than something fun and enjoyable to do. Albert was my squirmy, got to move, reluctant reader. Thomas was my calm, got to daydream, reluctant reader. And because of my experience as an extreme reluctant reader, I knew I needed to do something to turn them around, make them vampires of ink and paper.
How did I get them to love reading? After buying, this, that, and a few other things, that didn’t work, I came up with a plan. It was a straightforward idea. I’d bribe them. I mean, I’d offer them a reward—money. And boy did that get their attention!
Excited, I went to the library and pored over books. I had to find books that interested them, grabbed their attention so powerfully that they’d get hooked, stay up reading into the wee hours of the night, and even sneak read while in class. Of course, those books had to be exciting, thrilling, heartbreaking, funny or intense. After I checked out five books that I thought my boys might like. They each chose one and got started.
I figured if I ended up forking over a dollar to each of them that month, we’d all be happy. Lo and behold, my plan worked better than I thought it would! I ended up paying them five dollars each. Yep, they read all five books! They loved them and begged for more! One of the books, “Maximum Ride” by James Paterson, was pure gold! It was like magic reading dust! They couldn’t wait to get their hands on the next book in the series.
From then on, every month, I would make a trip to the library and pour over books searching for good reads. I discovered that there were tons of great stories in the Middle Grade and Young Adult sections, which my boys ended up loving.
Before long, I was paying Albert and Thomas 7 to 10 dollars a month. Of course, I read all those wonderful books too, and I quickly realized that Middle-Grade stories were what I should write.
One of the best things that came out of my little book bribing scheme: Thomas, Albert and me, always had the most delightful conversations about books and writing. We constantly had something to talk about, at dinner, in the car, shopping and on long summer days at the beach. If you have boys, then you know, striking up a conversation can sometimes be a challenge.