Was it worth it?

‘The Cover Is Not the Book’

Reading Challenge Results

As a family, we began a reading challenge in January 2018 called ‘The Cover is Not the Book’. The idea was to read those books that are sitting on the shelf unread – perhaps because they don’t look as appealing as the more popular, newer alternatives. So now the challenge is over – how did it go? Was it worthwhile?

Absolutely and conclusively – yes! But not for the reasons I thought it would be.

My 8 year old (8yo) dived strait into the challenge – she’s very sharp-minded so naturally, she started with the shortest, easiest, most fun-looking books and ripped through 10 in the first week. What a champ! Unfortunately, she only managed to read 17 altogether which means she averaged just one book a week after her blazing start. But to be fair, those final 7 were the longest and least appealing. Most importantly, she is finally out of the ‘wimpy kid’ rut that she was stuck in. She is far more willing to read a variety of books and we have even started to read chapters of the Bible together. Her sharp mind applies itself to the Bible as readily as all the other books and she asks lots of insightful questions.

So in total 8yo clocked up 18 credits which she spent on 2 DVDs (5 credits each) and 8 new books. Happy Days!

My 10 year old (10yo) is completely different, as most parents of multiple kids will have already guessed. She reads bigger books which take longer to read and to begin with, felt that the whole thing was unfair. So I had to introduce a new rule: bigger books get more credits.

Not only did the 10yo read alone but we also read aloud together which meant that even though it took longer to clock up the credits, when she did, she got 4 at once! So in total 10yo achieved 33 credits. So far she has only spent 6 of them and all on books. Win win!

How did we break through the natural lull once the novelty wore off?

There was a lull so around about the halfway date I allowed them to spend a few of their credits in advance. Not only did this give them a morale boost, it also saved me some cash because it was ‘World Book Day’ and there were lots of sales going on!

The problem with this was that once the new books arrived, that’s all they wanted to read. The existing pile of ‘The Cover is Not the Book’ books barely got touched again. But I’m not too worried about that because I think we will do this again – in fact, I think we will do this every year. And we they can read the remaining ‘boring on the outside’ books then.

So did it work? Are my kid’s enjoying a wider variety of authors and genres?

Yes and no. My 8 year old certainly is. My 10 year old, not as much. A few of the books were not only boring on the outside but boring on the inside. She did her best to read ‘What Katy Did’ but after 3 chapters declared she just couldn’t do it. But she did enjoy ‘Carrie’s War’ which has a very dull cover! All the new books she has chosen are firmly in the ‘fantasy’ section  -  I am aware that some fantasy books are very anti-Christian so I simply took her to an online Christian bookstore (eden.co.uk). They have a whole section on Christian fantasy so she could take her pick. She found several compelling novels and now wants to read the sequels.

Are they still judging books by their covers?

Yes they are. Perhaps even more so than before. ☹

Did they manage to read all the books in the challenge?

No. Especially since I kept adding more as the weeks went by! 🙄

So what was the point?

Not only are they reading more in general which I believe is always a good thing, they are open to new books, genres and reading styles including reading the Bible.

For kids to be aware that there is a whole world of experience outside of what happens to be most popular at the moment is a great achievement! And to be able to read different styles, genres and authors will prepare them for the different styles, genres and authors found within the Bible too.

The amount my kids read and their love for reading has sky-rocketed during this challenge. They still love their screen time but it’s no longer the only option on a rainy day. I’ve often found them curled up in a chair on a Sunday afternoon with a good book.

As an added bonus, they are much more open to reading new things – including the Bible. On Good Friday we sat out in the sunshine and took turns to read Mark 15. We’ve never done that before. They had thoughtful questions and insights (10yo said we should have a minute of silence at 3pm, the time of day Jesus died, which we did). There was also a lovely family atmosphere in the house afterwards. An atmosphere of unity and love.

And funniest of all – our darling 1 year old seems to have picked up the family vibe and not only loves to read but often sleeps with her arms curled around a good book. So fun times all round!

Would you like to take up the reading challenge? Here’s a How-To list to get you started.

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Joanne Gilchrist