When Megan was in fifth grade, her teacher told me during parent-teacher conference that she was not paying attention in class and therefore not always completing her assignments. The reason?
“She’s always reading. More than once I’ve caught her reading a book hidden in her lap,” he said, making it sound like he’d found drugs on her or something. “She reads when she should be listening to the lesson.”
I wanted to say to him, “Maybe if you were a more interesting teacher, she’d feel inclined to listen.”
Then he went on for a while about a low math test score she had or something, but I didn't hear him because I was reading a book hidden in my lap.
Okay, not really, but I wish.
And thus we see the change in the educational establishment’s attitude toward reading in just a few short years. I think it would be nice if the world appreciated and encouraged reading like Megan’s first grade teacher did. Yes, reading is its own reward, and I think people who read regularly understand this. What I mean is, I think it would be nice if the world gave you stuff for reading like Megan’s first grade teacher did. In other words, I wouldn’t mind a gold medal, not if it were made of real gold. But I think that, if there were such a reading program sponsored by the world, and since this program would be for people who’ve already finished school, the rewards should be more practical, geared toward a real-world application. With this view in mind, here’s how I envision the program:
1. You have to actually finish the book
2. Books you read during elementary and high school don’t count unless I say so
3. The following reading material also doesn’t count:
- Self-help/beauty/diet books by celebrities
- Harlequin/Silhouette/whatever books, those stupid paranormal romances about seductive werewolves or whatever, and anything by Nora Roberts
- Picture books, unless you’re reading them to a child, and then you have to read 42 of them to count for one book
- Books on tape
- The Celestine Prophecy
Naturally, the more books you read, the better the prizes. Also, since the US dollar isn’t doing so well right now, and since this would be a world-sponsored contest, payment in Euros should probably be an option. Anyway, here are the prizes:
1. For reading 100 books, you receive a chocolate mint and a certificate that says you’ve done no more than is expected of you.
2. For reading 500 books, you receive everything from the 100-book level plus a mint signed first edition of any book published since 2000, a pair of Thurber Dog bookends, a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice, and a $25 gift certificate to your favorite dessert shop.
3. For reading 1000 books, you receive everything from the 500-book level plus a mint signed first edition of any book published since 1900, a cool Floto briefcase/bookbag, a $250 gift certificate to a restaurant of your choice, and a crisp clean $100 bill.
4. For reading 5000 books, you receive everything from the 1000-book level plus a mint signed first edition of any book ever published, a $500 gift certificate to the department store of your choice, and a crisp clean $1000 bill.
5. For reading 10,000 books, you receive everything from the 5000-book level plus a mint so you can buy whatever first editions or desserts or dinners at a restaurant or whatever you want.
6. For reading 50,000 books, you receive everything from the 10,000-book level plus a time machine, so you can go back in time and buy all the mint first edition books you want, and get them signed in person.
Notice: Use of the time machine for changing the course of history is strictly forbidden, except if you want to make sure your daughter gets a different 5th grade teacher.