Essentialism Part III: The Token System

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Last week at church I was chatting with two friends. One said she was reading, with her teenage daughter,  Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. It’s  the classic sci-fi about a futuristic society where books are banned. Firemen are not to put out fires but to burn books.  We tsked, tsked over that and then my  other friend said she had paid a carpenter to come to her house to build bookcases. The guy looked at her and said, “Are people still reading books?”

The perception may be that we are not readers any more,  but you and your family can still enjoy the endless pleasures of reading. That is the art of being a Fierce Mormon Mother–Saying yes to essential pursuits, when other people are saying no. Yes it is a bit of work to go to the library and read to your children but, once you get your child hooked they become much more maintenance free. They are learning how to entertain themselves without an electronic device in their hands.

They become, more interested and interesting, and that precious character trait, curiosity, is being nourished. 

At our house, back in the day, frequent visits to the library helped our children read a lot. I also read to them, and we had a no tv rule, meaning no cable tv, and we would rent movies from the library to watch when their chores and homework was done. Video games were allowed for 1 hour a day, but there was policing involved. When I read about Greg Mceown’s token system, in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of  Less“, it’s something I wish I would have figured out.

“The token system—the children were given ten token’s a week that could be traded in for either thirty minutes of screen time or 50 cents at the end of the week adding up to 5$ or 5 hours of screen time a week. If a child read a book for thirty minutes, he or she would earn an additional token which could be traded for screen time or money.”

“The results were incredible: overnight, screen time went down 90 percent, reading went up by the same amount and the over all effort we had to put into policing the system went way, way down. In other words, nonessential activity dramatically decreased and essential activity dramatically increased. Once a small amount of initial effort was invested to set up the system, it worked without friction.”

Here is a link for 144 tokens for $6.95 plus shipping. Or you can make them out of paper, or use popsicle sticks or little rocks.

If you combine this with weekly trips to the library, viola! There is something about going into the library and picking books that encourages reading.  In an effort to curb my Amazon addiction to ordering books, I ventured into the library at the beginning of June. I left with many books and magazines and am always amazed that the price of admission is just a library card. I had this full abundant feeling as I left and I couldn’t wait to get reading. The library has lists for all ages and I would include Newberry award winners (voted best children’s novel for that year) and Caldecott winners (voted best illustrated children’s book for that year) to read to your children. (As of late, things have gotten more political with children’s books, as the below link shows that “Little House on the Prairie” has been banned by the National Library Association. I would read any Newberry Award winners of the last few years before I had my children read them.)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/little-house-has-been-condemned-1530722842

When we got first grade Ross his own library card,  he came up late one night, hair disheveled, and pronounced, “I JUST CAN’T SLEEP!” He threw his arms out wide and emphasizing each word with his hands getting wider and  said, “All I can think about is that big, blue library card!” He stood there looking so  happy and well—wide awake. Thinking about the endless possibilities for all the books he could borrow was literally keeping him up at night.

We are reaching the apex of summer, where like a ferris wheel the days are turning and arching up to the top and then starting to  head back down into fall. In short—the best time to start reading is in the summer when there are all those hours in a day. If you haven’t been to the library yet, take your children. Find a good book to read aloud to them at night. There is so much pleasure that awaits you with that “Big blue library card!”

And–if you start using Greg Mceown’s essentialist token system, let me know how it goes!

3 Comments

  1. My mother, a Catholic, and an avid reader all of her life starting taking all of her 5 children to the library as soon as we could walk, almost on a daily basis. All of us are avid readers of various interests and I took my two daughters to the library all the time and books filled our house and rarely was the one TV turned on. Now, my daughter’s two sons, who were taught to read before they could walk, are now both in the gifted programs in school and the oldest at 15, is now on his way to college! That is what reading can do.

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