So, my son’s school is doing a reading contest this month. We asked the family for donations, and encouraged them to make a flat donation rather than a per-minute donation. Or if they did a per-minute donation, to keep it around a penny per minute. That was because we set a goal for him of 280 minutes this month.

Because he’s in kindergarten, he gets to count minutes that he gets read to as well as minutes that he spends reading — and the moment we told him there was a contest and a prize, little dude has gone PSYCHO. Daddy’s working and he’s home from school? “Mommy, I need more minutes. Can we read?” Time to go shopping? “Daddy, can I take my book with me in the car on the way to the store?”

Result: it’s 10 days into the reading contest, and he has 369 minutes.

So, we figure, we’re going to set a really high bar and motivate the kid to kick ass. We agreed on two thousand minutes by the end of the month. How to motivate him? Well, we remembered how devastated he was when he didn’t get to go to the “Special Place“, and we decided to do that again. We chose a sweet place in Lacey that has six bounce houses, laser tag, a video arcade, and so on, but we didn’t tell him that. All we told him was “We’ve got a really cool place we’ll go if you do this.”

Result: He’s teaching himself to read at an extraordinary pace. It turns out that my son really likes to win, and when you tell him something his a contest and there’s a prize (the kid at school who reads the most minutes gets a Nook, not that we explained that to him, he just knows theres “a prize”), he goes insane. One of the reasons we added the home-grown prize to the contest is that if he busts his ass like he is and doesn’t win, he’s going to be absolutely devastated. This way, we figure even if there’s someone at school more nuts than he his, he’ll still win something – because it seems like that 2000 minute goal, while it’ll still be a stretch, is going to happen. It’s a good thing no one has signed up for any more than a penny a word.

That’s because, among other things, my badass wife made a star chart. Two hundred stars worth 10 minutes each — and it’s driven my son even further. He’s obsessed with getting more stars, which means more reading. Oh, and MORE READING!

Result: He’s kicked “Psycho” up to a whole new level. He read this morning as I fed him breakfast. He wanted to read his bedtime story twice last night because “it wasn’t enough minutes.” Oh, and during last night’s bath, we had to read to him while he bathed. If there is time, and he’s not either eating, sleeping, or at school, than EVEN MOAR READING!

I’d be a little worried about him, except I’m so proud. He’s going to be reading like a pro by the end of the month, and it’s just fun to watch him get so excited. He’s running around the house hunting for new books the same way he hunts for new toys to play with. He runs up to me with just about any book that has a fantasy-style picture on it and says “Is this stories for me, Giovanni?”

I’m also proud of my wife. She may be just a housewife, but she knows how to motivate and encourage that little boy like a professional life coach. She’s recently had a breakthrough in motivating me, too…but that’s another post. šŸ™‚