“You give me 45 minutes of reading and I'll allow you 30 minutes of PS4 time.”
“I’ll read for 30 minutes but i get an hour to play.”
“How about 30 minutes of reading for 45 minutes?”
“Fine! But you know, all my friends get to play for as long as they like!”
I clearly have absolutely no clue whatsoever about the Art of Negotiation, as my ten year old son has, once again, stricken the best deal for himself. I, on the other hand, have easily given in because 30 minutes of reading is better than nothing.
These Wall Street style deals are a daily occurrence in our household. I'm perfectly aware that this may be perceived as bribery. What kind of parent has to resort to bribery in order to get their child to read? The desperate kind. The kind of parent who is utterly frustrated because they have a child with bags of potential. A child who has one year left before his 11+ exams and who has zero interest in getting his English up to scratch.
Tim (let's just call him Tim because it's short and sweet), has a very logical brain. He's sharp, sporty and good with numbers. He hates art, music, drama and reading. Basically, anything creative. He does well in all his subjects but his refusal to read means that his English could do with a really good polish. He complains about every single book. It won't take him more than a couple of pages before he decides that the book is "boring". In fact, we are lucky if he gets through the first couple of pages because he literally judges the book by its cover.
I'm told it's a boy thing. Is it really though? I know so many boys who love to read. Perhaps the 'boy thing' is a term that desperate mothers like me came up with to make themselves feel better, like they are part of a community of other equally desperate mothers. Strength in numbers and all that.
Tim's sister is the opposite. She loves all things creative and always has a book in her hand. As a result, English has always been a breeze for her. She writes beautifully, with no intervention from me when she was younger. She just got on with it. She aced her exams and secured places at her top 2 senior schools.
Tim's reluctance to read is reflected in his English comprehension and creative writing. He doesn't read well between the lines, therefore unable to really understand those subtle nuances in the text. His punctuation is appalling. He is able to write an entire creative writing piece without a single comma in sight.
So here we are, a year before those dreaded exams. I admit, I am very concerned. I have no doubt Tim will blitz his maths but operation Gordon Gekko (hats off to Michael Douglas in Wall Street. I needed a cool name.) will have to start ASAP in order for him to reach his 11+ goals.
Step one of operation Gordon Gekko was to sign up to Exam Insider. Tim has completed his Initial Assessments and sent them to the Exam Insider Tutors. Low and behold, his English Assessment paper was a true eye opener. I am already aware of his weaknesses but to see them written down so clearly was a lightbulb moment for both Tim and I. Aaron's detailed feedback gave me a clear plan of action. He gave me hope that we can work together to bring him to that level he needs to get into his top and (very) competitive choice senior school. I must note that I would also be happy with his second choice, but I will give him an inspirational school to work towards.
Tim has to take some ownership of his work at this stage. He now knows that he will have to put in the work to improve his English. He will find some time each week to work on his own, armed with his booklets and tutor videos. The beauty is that i don't have to sit with him. It is designed for the child to work independently. No nagging mum sitting next to him, stressing him out.
On my part, I have decided to sit with Tim every night in bed and read together, discussing the story as we go along, paying particular attention to punctuation, vocabulary used and making sure he is understanding the nuances in the text. This could be a good mother-son bonding time whilst also being proactive. I'm hoping he will learn to love reading. I know that reading for pleasure, along with Aaron's gentle nudge in the right direction, will ensure Tim's 11+ success. Fingers crossed.