Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Readathon

We are not a perfect household, here at Chez Lannis.

Despite my stay-at-home-mom-ness, our house is organized chaos.

Between the boys’ schooling, running the household (meals, groceries, laundry, housework, pets), administrative tasks (bill paying, money-managing, tax prepping, and everything else), family appointments (doctors, dentists, specialists, physio, massage therapy, and more), family management (keeping the boys responsible for themselves, their chores, their belongings, and just plain parenting), costuming (which turns the house into a hot mess all on its own), as well as extracurriculars (Mr Lannis’ karate and working out), um... I’m not sure how anything really gets done...

We don’t socialize a ton—I’m perpetually wishing I had more free time and less geography between myself and my friends.

And in there, somewhere, I’m supposed to be writing... ::snort::

And our kids don’t have any extracurricular commitments (yet—aside from swimming lessons for three weeks in the summer).


Yes, those people with two working parents, kids in hockey (or what have you), and 18 different places to be every hour—THOSE people?!

What’s your secret? (Is it speed? Because I'm not into that, and it'd explain a lot.) Because really...? I got nothin’...

And that’s all before homework!

My point?—because there is one, I swear—Mr Lannis and I share the philosophy that in order for our children to learn that education is important, we must show them it’s a priority. We must support the groundwork our kids’ teachers have set, and not leave the onus of their education on the school system alone.

In short: if there’s homework or practice to be done, as parents we need to make it a priority to get it done.

(Aside: I’m not picking a fight here about the Ontario school system, I’m discussing our family philosophy on education—that for children to get the most of what is offered to them, the parents must then support what is learned in the classroom. And I’m not talking big sweeping enrichment programs, either... if your kid is sent home with a book to read, bloody well read it! That’s all.)

Anyhow. We were struggling to make time for schoolwork. We, here, at Chez Lannis, with a kindergartener and a grade two student, were consistently dropping the ball on Snuggle Up and Read books, on extra math practice, on printing pages...

We, who had a stay-at-home-mom who, lord knows, in all the world’s opinion has NOTHING to do (ha!), could not make time to get around to schoolwork at the end of the day. (Mr Lannis got the pass, naturally, since working out, karate, and shift work—with its asinine mandatory overtime—ate his days away.)

And where’s the appeal? Here’s two burnt out kids who simply want to have dinner, play a bit, (maybe) have a bath, hear a story, and go to bed...

(Note: no TV mentioned because they don’t watch TV or play the Wii unless it’s the weekend—or a rainy day. They get suckered in the wintertime—ha!)

I didn’t want to disturb them, haul them away from Lego and force them to read... Yeah, because THAT sounds like a desirable task... Clearly, burnt out, exhausted children are highly amenable and receptive to the idea of abandoning what they want to do in order to opt for homework... and with that mindset they’ll learn a lot, too! Pfft...

So. Stacked with an empty reading log and a boy in grade two who desperately needed to catch up to his peers, I sat down with him and proposed the Readathon.


The Readathon.

It’s where one day of the weekend, we drop everything on the hour, every hour, for eight hours in a row and read.

One book. At the top of the hour. And then we get to go back to whatever we’re doing until it’s time to stop again...

But the rules state: whatever we’re doing, we MUST stop.

And at the end of the day there’s a prize.

A Kinder egg, a Lego minifigure, something we’ve picked up previously at the dollar store to act as the day’s incentive...

Is it bribery? I read recently that the difference between bribery and reward is that bribery is luring someone to perform an illegal act, whereas reward is incentive to do something positive. So no, I’m not going to beat myself silly with guilt about bribing my kid to practice reading.

Besides, it works.

And the boys were so thrilled to have power.

Yes, power.

It didn’t take long before they learned to watch that clock and took delight in announcing it was time for Mr Lannis and I to drop whatever it was we were doing (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn) to hear them read.

They loved it. The attention. The short burst of focus. The ability to disappear back to their chosen activity immediately afterwards.

And of course: the reward.

They even asked to have another Readathon! Many, by now—we’ve been doing this since the beginning of the school year, in various reincarnations. Readathon, Math-athon, School-athon (any practice schoolwork—printing, spelling, math, social studies, science—or combination thereof).

Sure, it's a commitment... it's a day set aside where you read, read, read (or substitute another educational activity). But it makes up for all the missed evenings of homework, and your kids learn that school is important. We have a Readathon (or School-athon) about once or twice a month now... if there's a long weekend we'll fit one in.

We’ve since seen a lot of improvement in the boys’ reading levels. Our oldest has caught up and exceeded his peers. He won a book at school for being in the top five kids in his class for books read on his reading log, and is now reading well into the next grade level. Our youngest, the kindergartener, is well beyond the expected reading level for beginning grade one.

The best part? Our oldest has been bit by the reading bug—he figures he’s unlocked the secret code to understanding everything around him, and he lights up with the pleasure of being in the club. You know, the one where you get to spell words to others if you’re trying to hide something from a non-speller/reader...

(Yeah, Mr Lannis and I? We’re screwed.)

That nugget of confidence has had a huge impact on a kid with anxiety. The world is a less scary place when you can read street signs, or can delve into books and disappear.

When you have the ability to read directions and learn on your own, well, that's power in and of itself. And for a kid with anxiety, having the power to help yourself can be pretty freaking important...


  1. Rebecca Grove-FosterJune 11, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    how long are you reading for each hour?
    You are brilliant. <3

  2. Hey Becca! We really only read one book... their pick (within reason for their ability). Once they get through it, they're free to play. If it takes them five minutes, they're off... if they hem and haw and it takes them 30 minutes to pull through, well, they have less time to play before the top of the hour hits again...

    The oldest, in grade two, was reading a Robert Munsch book each time, or a Curious George story.

    My youngest (in senior kindergarten) was reading a story from the old school Dick and Jane readers for each session... then *he* chose to read more than one of their tiny shorts "because they're too short to be fair, Mom." Crazy, right?

  3. And thanks for the compliment! You're pretty schnazzy yourself, girlie! :)

  4. Totally agree with your philosophy on parents taking an active role in educating their children. I volunteer at Gavin's school and I can't tell you how many kids come to school not reading there books ever at home!

  5. I get it--we *were* those parents, and I was so frustrated with us! To top it off, with R's anxiety, he'd internalize the "you didn't read your book?!" and completely deflate and panic about getting behind. He's so much more confident now, and that confidence is spilling into other areas, too--academia, socialization, and personal growth (he's so much more mature!). It's great to see...

  6. I can't even contemplate saying I hadn't read a book... EVER. Mind = blown. O.o