Several years ago I found myself held hostage to a family promise. The Hunger Games had just arrived at our local cinema and some members of my family, aka my children, were very excited about joining their friends for opening night. Unfortunately that could not happen because I had not read the book. That’s right once again dad was responsible for holding our children at bay from partaking in a perceived mandatory adolescent social phenomenon!
Early on in the developmental phases of our children’s lives we all made a pact that no one in our family would watch a movie derived from a novel until we all read the book. I stress the word “all” in the previous sentence! At the time everyone seemed to agree that this was a great idea because it would provide our family with great opportunities for analysis and discussion. Throughout the years this commitment was viewed as a wise decision proven by the lively family debates focused on the sole question: Which was better the book or the movie?
Having five members in our family helped this question to serve as fodder for great debates which often extended over several weeks as details and rationale were submitted for supportive evidence. From Harry Potter to Percy Jackson we engaged our family in purposeful book discussions which created family together time for us to sharpen our reading and intellectual skills! We also found that not all members of the family were needed as side bar discussions often occurred and proven very enjoyable especially for those who were very passionate about the novel being discussed.
The discussions also provided a very enjoyable and valuable connection to our children. We became very aware of their individual reading capabilities, selections, and preferred genres. We found insight into their personalities and potential as we interacted in our literary quests. We also became aware of the traits of their friends who were reading the same book in a similar time span. Friends were often used as other sources to prove a point!
Over time we found our pact had two roadblocks both based on the concept of time. First, we shared one book which meant it often took several weeks for the five of us to complete the reading task. We formed an unwritten agreement that all family members would be patient and not engage in debate until everyone was finished. This said I know that conversations were taking place between the early readers while the content was fresh in their minds.
These early quiet conversations, especially when overheard, often created a sense of urgently for those of us who had not read the book. As the book traveled through the family path majority of nonreaders quickly switched to a minority leaving pressure on the final reader to complete the task and get involved. Yearning to be a part of the family debate proved to be a great motivator!
Although sometimes bothersome, this first hurdle was tolerable. The second hurdle, procrastination, caused much more stress and potential conflict. This was especially true when I found myself to be the lone holdout for consuming The Hunger Games. If you are familiar with family dynamics you can imagine the stress placed on me when our youngest daughter finished the book which left me standing by myself!
Finally, after missing out in what was evolving as quality family interaction I made the time to engage myself and finished the book. I became so engaged I finished the trilogy in a matter of days. I was back in the family circle!
Books and movies can serve as a wonderful catalyst for family time! While our children are still school age we look forward to our family pact to continue for many years into the future. Our latest undertaking is the Divergent series. We have all read the book and watched the first installation. We are all at various stages in book two and three. I need to get busy!
Rick Hanes is the superintendent of the Piqua City School District. Rick continues to ensure that the Piqua City Schools show residents the “Good Schools, Good Value” that they are each day. You can follow him directly on Twitter @raheducator.