Sunday, February 28, 2016


It was a simple request, actually.

Read enough books to earn ten points.  If you're a first grader, that means you'll need to read at least 20 picture books.  If you're a fourth or fifth grader, you'll need to read at least one solid chapter book. But you get to pick.

Just do the reading.

By mid-month, we had some interest.  We could tell there were a few kids working toward the goal.

Ice cream with the principal-- Dr. Ibarra.  That's all we were offering.

The momentum picked up.  A couple of teachers started an after-school book club, and students were staying late with their teachers for an hour just to read.  They'd come to the library, pick up dozens and dozens of books, then go back to class to read.

Children came to the library two and three times a day, all smiles, working towards the goal.

By the start of this week, I knew we were in trouble.  We were going to be buying a lot of ice cream.

On Tuesday we had 53 children who met the goal.

I published an update on who was earning the reward;  who was "close" to meeting the challenge.

My friend and I went to the Mexican market and bought a pinata.  Covered up the "Minions" motif with our own designs--pictures of ice cream cones and reworked with the words "Ice Cream with Dr. Ibarra".  Hoping to generate some extra excitement on celebration day.   We kept the pinata a secret. It was going to be a "bonus" reward.

By Thursday, we did a final count:   107 children surpassed all of our expectations.

On Friday afternoon, my partner in crime and library assistant, Laura Cisneros, walked outside and tossed her son's lead rope over the widespread branches of the oak tree, dangling that big, gaudy pinata in the middle of a circle of almost giddy children.

We passed out fudge pops, ice cream sandwiches, dream sickles of all kinds. Our students stood in a huge, wide circle, talking and chatting with each other in the sunlight.

The students with the highest reading totals earned the privilege of striking the pinata first, while the whole crowd of children sang:

Dale, dale dale,
No pierdas el tino;
Porque si lo pierdes
Pierdes el camino.

Go, go, go,
Don't lose your aim;
Because if you lose it 
You will lose the path. 

A prophetic song, actually.
Go, go, go young readers.  Don't give up, or you'll lose your path. 

Children who'd read dozens of books took aim at the pinata, wielding the big stick into the air, trying to burst it wide open, one after another.  

Finally, I asked our principal to do the deed.  With a blindfold over his eyes, he cracked the tar out of that pinata, and 107 children rushed to capture the treasure.

It was just a simple request:  read.

Please read.

Just read.  We're not going to tell you how or what.  You decide.  

Just read. 

We know the future will be bright and full of promise if this one skill is developed...practiced...honed. 

As a reader, you can achieve, you can lead, you can change your world and perhaps even change ours.

That's all we wanted our students to glean from this incentive.  

107 children figured it out.  

It's pretty simple, actually.