Stop pushing and start burning books

One of the things I love about having kids is that they show a unique mix of the DNA of both the parents. My daugther combines my wife’s discipline with my positivity and self confidence and is doing more than OK in high school.  My son shares my talent for math and numbers and my wife’s ability to put other people first. Both kids do have some of our talents but also some of our limitations, so has my son: we both have trouble to commit to tasks that are required and don’t attribute to a personal goal or personal success.

We have had a few arguments about reading comprehension: we pushed him to read more because we thought that we were helping him out. He prefers to play games on his smartphone instead of reading a book, reading is soooooo booooooring.

To get rid of the arguments and to make reading more fun we decided to change a few things:

  • find a personal goal to commit to
  • find some books on a cool subject (he chose books about football)
  • visualize progress and succes
  • stop pushing

Because my son is very competitive he hopes for an A level (“VWO” in Dutch) grading from his elementary school’s teachers. One of the “KPI’s” together with the math scores is … reading comprehension. We discussed how reading more (and better) could influence his grading and once of a sudden we found a personal goal: better reading comprehension means a possible better grading for high school.

We created something that is called a “flap” in eduScrum:

  • a backlog with chapters to read, together with the number of pages per chapter
  • three swimlanes: to do, in progress and done
  • a burndown: what’s the progress in terms of pages (yes, we burn pages so we burn books 🙂 )
  • a definition of done: at least one question per page about a difficult word or saying or just to check if the co-readers was paying attention during reading
  • a definition of fun: reading together is a lot more fun than reading alone
  • lessons learned: reading can be fun and exciting
  • velocity: we can read about 8 pages a day!

We started out with a big piece of paper and my son took full control of the layout and colours. We  discussed a simple definition of done and the definition of fun and started tracking progress. Since that time we haven’t had any argument (about the reading…) and we as parents just stopped pushing. We changed from being authoritive and controlling to supportive and coaching. Our son took responsibility for something he could commit to.

We didn’t change the reading process since we applied some agile principles. A minor change is that he now manages the flap in a digital environment (Jira Agile) which is a big reward for my son because he can use his smartphone a few minutes more every day using the app:


Burndown Reading Comprehension: Burning Pages

And he got his A level grading.

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