Yesterday, I resurrected the star chart for earning privileges and completing tasks. I’ve got an app on my iPad (naturally) that easily keeps track of the running total and lets you dole out the rewards. I had started using it last winter, but it kind of fell off in use by late summer. But four-year-olds, like elephants, never forget. Occasionally, the kids would do something and ask me to give them a star.
Well, after one of those requests and a realization that video game time was again getting out of hand, we reinstated the star chart. They can earn a star for all variety of things – making their beds, clearing the table, putting away laundry. I even have the generic “help mom” on there as a way to reward otherwise unspecified good deeds. But after 24 hours, my favorite star-earner is “read a book.”
At almost 4.5, both kids can read pretty well. Daniel, honestly, is ridiculous. He can read it all. All of the words. ALL OF THEM. And he has so much committed to memory as “sight words,” his speed is downright alarming. Rebecca is still sounding a lot of things out, but is getting faster and smoother by the day (she’s also more likely to “cheat” and just guess by looking at the picture on the page). Regardless, I want to encourage both of them to keep practicing their reading at home.
So I tossed “read a book” on the star chart. Well, being the first day and starting from zero, both kids were desperate to earn more stars. So when we ran out of laundry to put away and the dog had been fed, I suggested that Daniel read a book to Ellie. Over the course of the afternoon, Daniel read three books to Ellie, and Rebecca read two.
When they each asked to read a second book in order to earn a second star, I hesitated. Were they just gaming the system? Then I realized I DON’T CARE IF THEY ARE. It takes 10 stars to earn 45-60 minutes of video game time. Read your baby sister ten books in exchange for some time on the Wii? GO FOR IT.
This is a win for everyone. The kids earn a reward while practicing reading (nearly any book they want, though I draw the line at the super short ones that they have completely memorized). Ellie gets extra attention from her big brother and sister, and gets read more books than I find myself able to do in a given day (oh, am I a slacker second-time-mom on that front). And I get eager, happy kids and anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of peace, interrupted only by the occasional request for help on a tricky word.