Book It rebuffed

Posted: August 29, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

My oldest daughter brought home some paperwork over the weekend. Turns out her second-grade class is participating in the Book It program, which basically bribes kids to read by offering free pizza. Spend 20 minutes each day with a book and you’ll be rewarded with a personal-pan pizza from Pizza Hut every month during the school year.

Great deal, right? But what struck me was her reaction: She flat out didn’t care. She didn’t want to do it even though loves pizza (it’s one of maybe four foods she’ll eat without complaint) and already has 30 minutes set aside each night – right before bedtime – to do some reading. In other words, this not only wasn’t an inconvenience, it was basically extra incentive to do something she was going to do anyway. Yet she was completely indifferent.

I was befuddled and slightly offended. At that moment, I experienced for probably the first time the age-old sense that the new generation is awful, entitled and probably going to bring down civilization.

See, Book It started when I was in elementary school and it was one of the best things ever. EVER. Nothing tasted as good as free pizza in a sit-down restaurant. It made me feel like a super hero – I had delivered our family to this place and picked up my portion of the tab. In fact, Book It is probably at the heart of why I still covet free food and perhaps explains how I wound up being a sports writer. (Who gets more free food than sports writers?)

To have my daughter turn up her nose at this opportunity threw me for a loop; I’d have been less surprised if she had informed me she was moving out. Among the questions buzzing around in my head:

Is she spoiled? I mean, she does have a cell phone and a TV, but the former is the result of contractual issue with our provider and the latter was, well, a bribe to get her to sleep in the basement by herself. While this might be rationalizing things, I don’t think her teachers or friends’ parents would say that she behaves like a spoiled kid. That seems like a fair measuring stick.

Am I an awful parent? After all, she didn’t buy those electronics for herself. And if she does feel entitled and/or take luxuries for granted, well, that’s my bad for allowing her to act that way. I mean, my parents weren’t perfect, but at least they taught me well enough to appreciate free pizza.

Is this a societal issue? For example, my grandparents saved and scrounged to get through school while raising kids. My parents didn’t quite have to do that, but clipped lots of coupons in their younger years. I haven’t really done either of those things and went to a private college. There’s no question that I’ve assumed more tangible wealth than my parents did at this age so it seems natural for my daughter to take that to yet another level.

Comedian Adam Carolla did a bit on this very topic during a recent podcast. (Related note: If you don’t mind some salty language, his shows are hilarious … and far smarter than you would assume.) When he was a kid, it was a huge deal to get to go to McDonald’s. But his kids have to be coaxed into it. Just going to McDonald’s isn’t enough – they need an action figure, too, extra incentive in order to willingly participate.

And then one week later – bam! – the same thing is going down in my own home. And, unlike Carolla, I’m hardly a millionaire. Perhaps in this day and age the scourge of being spoiled or entitled has trickled down to the middle class, meaning more kids than ever expect to eat from silver spoons.

What does this all mean? I’m not exactly sure. But I’m not willing to say that it’s the beginning of the end. After all, I’m guessing that my grandparents are appalled that I don’t always send thank you notes. I almost always verbally thank someone for a small gift or a kind gesture, but I rarely do the additional paperwork. And I don’t believe that strategy is contributing to the downfall of society even if others might see it that way.

At the end of the day, the kid did her 20 minutes of reading, somewhat reluctantly beginning the Book It journey. There will be a delicious ending … whether she wants it to or not.

  1. Megan Myers says:

    What the what? Not impressed by Book It? I’m with you; I LIVED for Book It and was an avid reader anyway, so I faithfully scored my little pizza certificate every month. The closest Pizza Hut was 15 miles away from my small town and it was an extra-special trip to go.

    I am not a big fan of using food as a reward for children. Can contribute to some weird relationships with eating in the future. So if she enjoys reading and doesn’t need free pizza to motivate her, that’s great.

    Now I’m going to have to get a personal pan with mushrooms for lunch, dammit.

  2. Steve says:

    Terry don’t forget how competitive book-it made us, too! I very much remember trying to “out-read” you in grade school. I believe when we graduated st.john’s we were both specially recognized as the class’s tip readers – you with the most books an I with the most pages I think? So if anything, maybe your daughter will want to kick the asses of her contemporaries for food….it’s way more fun than just reading.

  3. Zimmer says:

    Your 7-8 year old daughter has a cell phone? My head just exploded.

    • What happened was my wife just got a new phone and then decided she wanted a smartphone. So we ended up adding a line rather than having to wait 2 more years or paying that huge cancellation fee.

      • shawnfury says:

        Has she reached the age yet where they read Old Yeller in school? I’m convinced that book convinces 88 percent of elementary students to stop reading novels – who wants to read about such a cruel, cruel world, even if pizza is promised?

  4. The solution: Let her do the reading, you eat the personal pan pizza. If she doesn’t appreciate the pizza, then you might as well relive great childhood memories by eating a free personal pan pizza on her behalf. You did bring her into the world you know…

  5. Man, I gotta get one of my old Book It pins, with the gold stars around the bottom, back from my mom. If I wore that over to your place one of these days, your daughter will see just how cool Book It is. Huh, funny how reading an idea can make it sound worse than it did in your head.

  6. […] $10 million in seed money. Since then we’ve written about New York City streetball, mushing, Book It, Aw, verr, the sexy homepage, The New Yorker Festival, New York City hurricanes and […]

  7. I loved “Book It” when I was a kid and yes I loved food. I thought it was so cool to get free pizza for reading a book. I still do. I remember when they had mostly sit-down Pizza Hut restaurant. They do have one near us, but we don’t really go to it. I have the nostalgia, that makes me want to go, but people just want to get the Pizza now-a-days, more than the whole experience. I found this page, because I was looking for the “Book It” logo to put on a facebook group of my old elementary school Captain Raymond Collins Elementary School in Long Beach, California. Thanks for the memories. 🙂 I do think kids are more spoiled more recently. They have internet, tv, cell phones, they don’t get out as much and just play. There is an exception with the kids in my apartment area. We have a pool and it’s summer time and they are in that like almost everyday and they love to play outside. They will play even into the night, because we have lights outside. I think a lot of kids are missing out just playing and get out in nature. Please if you have kids, make the go outside and just discover the wonders of it and playing. I know people are afraid with perverts and all, if you are just take some time and watch them. It’s nice watching kids play, it makes me happy seeing them have fun and enjoying themselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s