This is Still the First Book.

In early November, as the first quarter ended, Dylan discovered that he was supposed to read a book every quarter for “independent reading” – and do a related project. Since he’d joined the AP class three weeks late, he didn’t know about the assignment.

I joked with his teacher via email. “Maybe he could read two books next quarter!”

She said he could. “But both books have to be nonfiction.”

“He loves nonfiction!” I assured her.

So, during the second quarter, Dylan had to read two books and do two projects. I got a whole slew of choices out of the library for him: funny books by comedians, musicians’ autobiographies, behind-the-scenes books about movies he likes, rock band bios, acting game books, sports books, and books about the meanings behind famous songs.

Dylan didn’t choose to read any of those.

I was reading a book myself that I thought he’d enjoy, so I brought it along on one of our college road trips. Dylan read 10 pages.

“It’s not awful,” he said.

“Good!” I said. “You can finish it on this trip if you try!” Dylan never picked up the book again.

Over the next five weeks, I talked to him about his reading project at least 30 times. I brought home more books from the library. I piled two dozen choices from my personal collection on his bed. I bought him a Marilyn Manson autobiography for his birthday, and set it aside – assuming it could be the second book of the quarter. And I pulled out books he needed to read anyway, things to prepare him for college, that had been shoved to the back of his shelves. And still, Dylan read nothing.

In early December, I asked about the book venture again.

“I’m going to read Marilyn Manson’s autobiography,” Dylan said. “My forensics teacher is going to bring it into school for me. I’m just waiting for her to do that.”

I almost croaked. I went upstairs, dug out the book I’d bought for his birthday – which was only two weeks away – and put a bow on it.

“Here,” I said. “Read it now. Finish it before your birthday.”

So much for the element of surprise, or for the excitement he would have had if the book hadn’t been required reading. He tore the cover a bit removing the bow.

But Dylan kept the book in his room, right next to his bed.

And a week later, it was still bookmarked at the beginning of Chapter 1.

I spent the next two weeks encouraging him to finish the book before his birthday – which came, and went. Another week went by, and Christmas came and went. Dylan had read some of the book – but not much. In fact, he’d read only enough to get in trouble in class for reading when he was supposed to be paying attention. Then he’d set it aside again.

This is still the first book. And there are only 23 total days left in this quarter.

So he wants to go out with friends, which is fine with me. I want him to see his friends, have a good time, enjoy his break.

He can do that right after he finishes the book.

I gave him 48 hours written notice. I told him that I expected to see the finished independent reading project before he goes anywhere with friends.

“That’s not fair,” Dylan said. “I didn’t get any advanced warning at all!”

I’ve presented him with 648 possible books, and reminded him about the project every day for eight weeks.

“I didn’t get any advanced warning at all,” he said.

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