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Why We Pay Our Son to Read Books


Article by Vanessa Warren

Photography by Vanessa Warren

We do not pay our 12-year-old son to do chores; we pay him to read books.

Here’s why/how we started. Less than a year ago, I heard John Maxwell share that his dad paid him to read books when he was younger and that he started in the 7th grade. His dad said, "I will not pay you to be a part of this family [pay him to do chores]; however, I will put my money where my values are, and my values are instilling incredible principles in your life that are going make a difference." John said his first book was How to Win Friends and Influence People. And let me tell you, after hearing that, I’ve never purchased a book faster on Amazon. #sold

I did ask Noah what he thought about the whole idea (as I was staring at the package that had just arrived in the mail). He was like, “Ummm, yes. When can I start?” Ha!

I bought him a nice leather journal so that he could take notes on each chapter as he goes. I mention a “nice” journal because if you do this, you’ll want to save this for them to have as a reminder that they were killin’ it back when they were 12. It’s too awesome not to save!

I basically said, if I never read the book, I need your notes to be able to recap the chapter for me and for you be able to recall what you read. And once he completes the book and notes, we plan a time to chat about it all before he gets paid. You guys! The absolute BEST conversations are had, even on subjects he may not he dealing with a lot right now, but how amazing that his mind is primed and ready to fail knowing that’s how you learn to become better.

I asked him his favorite quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People, and he said, “You shouldn’t flatter people, but instead show appreciation for who they are.” #takingnotes 

I’m telling you right now, YOU will learn so much. I can’t recommend this enough! It’s my absolute best parenting move to date.

Once you are ready to do this, I know the big question is: what should they read? Well, there are *many* incredible books out there—definitely filter to be sure it’s age-appropriate—but here are some of our top faves he’s read or he’s working through.

He just wrapped up the John Maxwell book Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn for teens. Great read, was simple for Noah to grasp the concepts and we had solid discussions on what it looks like/may feel like to fail often.

You can never go wrong with a Bob Goff book! He plans to read Everybody Always next!

Another idea that’s not a book, but it’s most definitely worth me investing in is the Dave Ramsey online Foundations in Personal Finance: Middle School Edition self-study that empowers them with solid personal finance principles. Noah’s actually looking forward to this because a) he loves being smart with his money and b) it’s a little different than what we’ve been doing so far. Switching it up is good!

Do you have a personal growth book you’d recommend to a teen? Please share!