Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Learning the Hard Lessons the Easy Way

When I was a kid, schools and libraries would do anything to get kids to read.

It felt several shades of dirty, especially since I read anyway, so I felt like I was sort of cheating the system. Well, that and I was usually cheating the system.

The first was Pizza Hut's "Book It" program. Your teacher set standards for what was considered a a qualifying book and during the school year, every 5 you read, you got a free personal pan pizza.

The only rules I remember were that the books had to be more than 80 pages, you could only get 5 a month, and you had to write a page report on what the book was about.

By this time, I had a solid collection of about 32 Goosebumps books that I had already read. So, I would read one new book a month and then write reports on 4 Goosebumps books I had already read.

Over the two years my school participated in the program, I ate at least 12 free personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut.

Another one of my favorite reading memories was in sixth grade when our library received a bunch of new computers from Gateway. The school bought some sort of book database where you would read a book, take a quiz on the computers, and if you got 8/10 on the quiz, you received points. You could then turn the points in for items at the library.

Most of the stuff were things like Lisa Frank folders, candy, books, and lanyards.

Being a sucker for prizes, I scanned the window with all of the prizes and zeroed in on what I thought was the coolest thing, a skull pen where you held the spine to write with.

Now these quizzes were worth between 5-20 points depending on how difficult the book was.

I did the math and I knew that I would need 80 points to get the pen and I was determined.

I finished my first book and  I took the quiz. It was somewhere around question 6 when I realized that I could probably fake taking these quizzes. Most of the quizzes were based off context clues and things I could read off the back of the book.

If I read one medium point book, and took two easy quizzes a month, I would have my pen by Christmas.

Now, part of the restriction so that you couldn't just take all the quizzes you wanted is that you would have to check the book out from the school library to have access to the quiz.

So I would take all three books out at the same time, return the two easy books the next day, read the medium book, and then spend 30 minutes a month taking the quizzes.

I would nail the medium quiz with a 10/10, and usually could score the minimum 8/10 using context clues and the back cover of the easy books.

Finally Christmas break was upon us. With my chest out, I marched to the library ready to claim my prize.

And this is one of the rare instances where karma really bit me right in the butt. I got my pen, held it, loved it, packed it up and took it home. I forgot about it until after break where I used it in my first hour science class.

The hard plastic spine was not only incredibly uncomfortable to hold, but I actually poked my finger hard enough on one of the spine spikes that I bled. The pen lived in my pencil box as an ornament the rest of the year.

And that folks, is how I learned not to mess with the library.