Thursday 13 February 2020

Notes from the Read-a-thon '20 - 1

Read-a-thon is back with a bang! Read Read Read and earn points. Kids are busy scouring the shelves and grabbing books.

Read-a-thon is a reading marathon held during the last term of each year to help children develop a love for reading.  Children borrow books from their class libraries daily. They earn points for each book they read.  Non fiction and second language books earn more points. Regular fiction - less.

This time. the older children were allowed to save their points to buy a gift of their choice at the end of the Read-a-thon. But the younger ones could only get weekly gifts from Mr. Reading Pot at the end of the week. The gifts, usually small stationery items, have lost their appeal. Or maybe the idea of saving up for a self selected gift was aspirational enough.

The younger ones protested against this discrimination. I had a stream of visitors to my office asking, complaining, requesting, persuading. Kept bumping into their lobby groups on my way in and out of school. They argued that it was an Al Qamar tradition to be allowed to save points.

So we had a meeting and I announced that the kids could choose to be Grasshoppers or Ants. ie they could opt for a weekly gift or save up for one big one. But once they've made a choice, they have to stick with it. No changes. Period.

 Then came the barrage of questions - can we save and spend (no), will we still get to go to the Read-a-thon ice cream party if we save (yes), will we get to choose what gift we want (yes), can we do mashwara with our parents about what we should choose (I loved this one - what a lovely idea for a child to express. But due to the short nature of the deadline, no). Then there were the Catch 22 ones - so can we see the screen to choose our gifts? Al Qamar has a strict no screen policy, but I had to bend it this one time.

The children are deeply reflecting what choice they would like to make.  And that is the essential point. Schools and homes must give real situations to children where they can learn to make valid choices for themselves. And take the consequences.  This is an essential life skill.

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