I got my first job when I was eight.
I know what you’re thinking. Late bloomer.
But it was about that time in my life when I started to realize that I needed things, and things cost money. I went to my parents. My weekly allowance wasn’t going to cut it. What could I do, I asked, to make some more cash? The cold hard kind, preferably. Eight year olds need bank.
They thought on it and came back to me with a proposal. Cash for books, they offered. That was the plan I agreed to.
For every chapter book I read, they would pay me one dollar. For a biography, three dollars and if I went all out and read a classic from the list they provided, I would earn a whopping five dollars per book.
I figured out fairly quickly that the classics were pretty slow going for a third grader and after one or two, flipped the script and started blowing through chapter books like gangbusters. Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter’s Club were my favorites, with the odd Apple Paperback sneaking in on occasion. These things were like crack to me and I lost myself daily in their trials and tribulations of finding homes for lost dogs, getting to know the mysterious new kid at school, or figuring out who could take the Thursday afternoon babysitting gig. While these books were infinitely more entertaining, they sadly didn’t pay as well.
I finally settled comfortably into the land of biography, reading about Betsy Ross, Jim Thorpe, Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, George Washington Carver, and so many, many more. This was best of both worlds. Lucrative and interesting. I read a zillion of these things and never once cheated.
This went on for a couple of years. I’m not sure how the deal officially ended. Probably, I just aged out of it, as I don’t think there was a formal pronouncement. At one point, however, I kept reading and they stopped paying.
But it was too late. I was hooked. I would never again be the same or return to a state of non-reading. A book junkie, if you will, was born.
When I tell this story to others, it’s pretty typical that I’m met with a judgmental stare or a series of questions that somehow insinuate paying a child for reading sends the wrong message. They feel reading should be appreciated for it’s intrinsic value, and not considered a “chore,” or something that requires an outside reward.
These people are wrong. My parents were geniuses as far as I’m concerned. I internally thank them daily for the gift they’ve instilled in me. Not a night goes by that I don’t read and I look forward to it all day until it happens. When I have an afternoon free, I know how I want to spend it. I often wonder how many avid readers are out there and just don’t know it. They never worked reading into their daily life or routine and are thereby missing out.
I don’t have any kids, but when I do, I know a great way they can earn some money. Let the controversy commence. I’ll be too busy reading to notice.
Women’s Week is on the way. I’ll be reading, signing and participating in panel discussions on Thursday and Friday (October 11th and 12th) in Provincetown to usher Heart Block into the world. Oh, and Thursday night is the Bold Strokes cocktail gathering for authors and readers. You should come so we can hang out. I’ll even tell you a joke.