We don't do a lot of rewards around our house. We don't offer rewards to encourage good behaviour, just like we try not to use consequences to curb poor behaviour. I just don't believe either works in the majority of cases.
However, despite my general reservations, I am trying something new with Matthew, starting today. Yesterday, he said that he needed a goal for school work, and I suggested that we make his goal about reading, because so often he expresses discomfort about his reading abilities (for example, he won't read in front of other people because he feels insecure). He agreed (a bit of a miracle in itself). Because this totally initiated by him, I'm ok with agreeing to a reward.
He asked how long it would take to get more comfortable reading and how long it would take to read at approximately the same level as his like-age, grade four peers. I noted that I wasn't one iota worried about his reading and that I fully believe he's going to be a fabulous reader when he's ready. I also said that I wasn't too sure how long it would take to read at approximately the same level as his peers, but that I guessed that if he read every day for three months it would go a long way towards what he wanted to achieve. However, I said, I thought that this might be too long a period of time over which to make a first goal. He suggested three weeks. I agreed. He asked what his reward would be if he read for a minimum of fifteen minutes every day for three weeks. I said that I was open to ideas and he said (immediately!) that he really wanted a day to watch as much tv as he wanted, whenever he wanted. I agreed.
Thus, Matthew has set his first academic goal: Twenty-one consecutive days of reading a minimum of fifteen minutes/day. Reward: A day during which, other than meal times, he will be allowed to watch tv whenever he wants to. We talked about various nuances of the process: Who's the initiator of our reading sessions; what happens if he's sick; what happens if he asks and I'm not available at the moment; etc etc.
I figure that he's somewhere between a grade 2 and grade 3 reading level, so last night I found an app for my ipad that offered short stories (a paragraph long each) and a few comprehension questions for him to answer, at a grade 2 level. I rarely use my ipad for school, but I want to get an idea for myself approximately where he's at, and by using an app that's in line with the school system, I can gauge a little better. Besides, I figured it would be fun for him to spend some of our twenty-one days using my ipad!
Today was day one. Immediately after breakfast Matthew asked if he could read to me. I said "absolutely" and we headed to the library, where he proceeded to read out loud to me for seventeen minutes. He had no problem with the reading at that level or with the comprehension questions, but I'm going to stay with the easier level for a few days, maybe even up to a week, to build his confidence a little.
It's pretty much the easiest it's ever been having him read. It was actually fun; the last short story he read he actually put to music and sang it out loud! It was lovely and entirely motivated by him...and that, for Matthew, is everything.
So, fingers crossed: Day 1 of 21. Check.