As children, my older brother would be punished to sit in his room (alone) when he did something wrong. This was truly a punishment for him because he loved being either outside or on the computer playing games. For me, however, my parents had to think of other ways to punish me.
After all, when you tell an introvert to go to her room and stay there, alone, it isn’t really a punishment. In 3rd grade (around 8-9 years old), my parents decided to put me on Fiction Restriction for the first time, AKA, no non-required reading for however many days I was grounded.
(I’m pretty sure I was grounded because I was reading rather than doing homework, which meant my grades were in the toilet at that point.)
The first time it happened, I tried to stick by my parents’ rules… for about one day.
The next morning, I got up very early (before my parents) and quietly crept into the room where they had put all of my public library books for that week (Yes, we took weekly trips to the public library).
I grabbed a book, but not the top book in case my parents might notice the cover image had changed. I stuffed my “stolen” book into my backpack, did the normal morning routine, and happily went off to the 45 minute bus ride with my contraband book.
At school, I went to the media center and checked out more books to put in my locker and backpack. I wanted an extra stash of books so that I could continue reading. Also, at that point (3rd grade), I was reading multiple books a day due to class reading time, lunch time, and recess.
When I got older (4th grade and up) I also enlisted my best friend to help as well. She would bring an extra book in her bag for me in case I was caught sneaking out books from the public library.
So unlike my poor brother, who actually felt like he was being punished, and actually was kept away from things he liked to do, I managed to get around Fiction Restriction rather easily.
In 5th grade, I became curious about the romance novels that my mom always read, but she told me that I couldn’t read them until I was in high school.
However, she kept them in the same room that I snuck the library books out of, so I’m sure you can guess what happened next. So yes, I started reading romance novels in 5th grade. Let me tell you, they were miles better at explaining things than Sex Ed classes in Elementary and Middle School.
My bestie’s mom was a bit more lenient about romance novels than my mom, so my bestie would also often come to school with romance novels. One time, however, Bestie’s Mom refused to let her read a particular book; she said it was too naughty for us.
Unfortunately, by this time, my influence had already infected my bestie, so she snuck the book out of the house. We thought we were such rebels. (BTW, Bestie’s Mom was right about the book)
Fiction Restriction might have worked as a punishment if my parents had checked my backpack, called my bestie’s mom, and called the school librarian, but that would have required a lot of extra effort, and I probably would have found yet another workaround… somehow.
But honestly, parents spend so much time teaching children to read, trying to get the kids to appreciate or even like reading, and then to try and take it all away as a punishment just seems counter-intuitive to me.
I think that Fiction Restriction will ultimately fail for a child who loves reading, and it will also fail for children who don’t because it won’t be a punishment.
Plus, unless you move the bookshelves, book cases, and stacks of books into a room that the parents will always be watching, a bookworm is going to find a way to get a book.
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