He was driven. He was focused. He was incredible. Sure, it is only reading but what better activity to be combined with goal setting, devotion, dedication and achievement? Add to that the pride and comradery involved in this years Accelerated Reader competition. It is a slice of his life that we will never forget.
My youngest has never been known for his focus. During three years of Tae Kwon Do, with the primary objective to improve his ability to focus and follow direction, we didn’t see a lot of progress. Or were we just looking too early? His ability to concentrate on what he wanted to get done this time was simply amazing, almost frightening and at times, a little overboard.
Here is the story. My youngest started to get interested in reading. It started with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, not a pinnacle of literature but he was reading. Who were we to complain? Then he got into the Harry Potter books and we knew we were on to something. He was reading frequently at home, in the car and of course at school. He was enjoying it, the stories, the magical places and also the accomplishment.
He was also racking up AR points. Nothing Earth shattering but points that were being encouraged by his teacher and his classmates. The class had become quite a group of readers. They were pushing each other to read and gain points, all under the oversight of his teacher who was like the coach of a team bound for the championship.
Then it struck. I am not sure what exactly ramped up the competitive drive. I think it may have been a card game (either Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon) that he played with classmates during recess. He routinely studied the cards, knew what card or monster or attach was what and what worked when. He memorized them and strategized and with all that work, he saw it pay off. He came home touting victory in his card games and I experienced first hand the comments of classmates regarding how he was the strongest player.
With that area conquered, he turned to the AR competition. One of his rivals in the card games was also fairly high in the class AR totals. So he set his sights and began reading. He rolled through several series of books including the Warrior series where he was reading books of 250 pages in a day or two. He was on fire, reading constantly. Any time he had available, he was reading. At one point we saw his teacher at the local McDonald’s at breakfast and she told me to keep him from reading over the entire weekend. Granted, he was still playing soccer and socializing so he wasn’t a book worm, hermit type. But he had a goal, to beat the two people in front of him in points. And he did it.
He surpassed the second place person then narrowed in on first place. He wasn’t sure if he had passed him or not but after a weekend when he rolled through another high points book, he found out he was in first. We joked and ribbed him a bit to keep him moving along, to keep the fire going, to make sure now that he obtained first place he stayed there. But he didn’t need much encouragement and started talking about who else in his grade might be above him. The scope of the challenge moved beyond his classroom.
He kept reading, kept testing and kept racking up the points. I was amazed at how well he did (taking after his mother with the desire and ability to read so fast and for so long) and at how he was able to retain the info to get the most points from the test as possible. His sights were set on being first for the 3rd grade. He even started asking his brother about who might be first in the school. And he kept reading.
Finally, award day came. Jen and I both attended the ceremony, we couldn’t miss this. The classes took turns announcing the awards and when they announced that the boy he knew he was up against for the entire grade came in second, his face lit up. But more incredible were the high fives from his classmates and the congrats from across the table. They were genuinely excited for him and there was such a sense of teamwork that it was simply awesome.
My son was announced as the top in his grade for AR and again, the applause and pride was amazing. After all the 3rd grade classes announced their awards, the principal came up and said that he had a couple of special awards to announce. He gave out the awards for AR for the entire school and although he did not get first (beat out by a 5th grader), he did get second place for the school and again, the congratulations from his classmates were great.
After the ceremony, we went back to his classroom for a reception. The pride between the kids and especially from his teacher who went through and read off each student’s AR points to show how well they had all done, it was incredible. They had collectively set goals for reading and as they basked in what they had accomplished, justifiably so, they also cheered for each other. To see this level of comradery with 3rd graders was beyond any expectation I had.
Some may see my response to this as gloating or being a bit overboard. Frankly, I don’t care. The fact that my son, Sir Talks-A-Lot, focused on reading and set a target that he completely hit out of the park, that is something that makes me proud and I am not afraid to show it. I am fine with him showing his pride and although I try to keep him in check so as not to look too boastful (and I stop any bragging as soon as it starts), I try to let him enjoy his accomplishments. He earned it. Hopefully that approach doesn’t offend anyone else (like the boy who came in second), but how you react to things in life has to be somewhat in your own hands, not based on everyone around you.
So, even though this all happened two months ago, at the end of the school year, we are still talking about it. He still mentions it from time to time, tells family members he hasn’t seen since about it (like on vacation), and occasionally wears his metals. But more importantly, I use it to emphasize his ability to focus, work hard and accomplish something. That is a lifelong lesson that can be the greatest benefit of this competition and one that I hope to stick (and perhaps even bleed over to his brother in some way).