When I was a kid, they'd give you extra reading as a punishment for being bad. Nowadays, at Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, extra reading is a reward you get for being good.
Only one stipulation: It has to be pleasure reading. No drudgery allowed.
I ask you: Which is the better way? At Glenview, the kids are learning an important lesson they'll take with them for the rest of their lives: Reading is fun.
That's the good news. The bad news is that public schools like Glenview are woefully underfunded these days. It's been that way since 1978, when Proposition 13 was passed.
Since then, parents have scrambled to find ways to make up the deficit, nowhere more so than at Glenview.
Every year, they organize a two-week extravaganza called the Read-A-Thon, which combines the kids' love of reading with a clever way to raise money.
For two weeks, the kids ask their families, friends and neighbors to sponsor them in reading 30 minutes every day, over and above their homework.
The money they raise goes to the Glenview PTA, which has to come up with $65,000 every year to pay for essentials that wouldn't exist if not for the Read-A-Thon.
Otherwise, Glenview would have to say goodbye to its school librarian, instrumental music programs, anti-bullying programs and empowerment programs for girls.
For safety's sake, the kids are only allowed to knock on the doors of people they know, and they must be accompanied by an adult they know personally.
The climax of the Read-a-Thon is an all-day party when they put away their schoolwork and do nothing but read for sheer pleasure. The littlest ones usually make "forts" out of blankets and chairs in the middle of the classroom, crawl inside, and read to their little hearts' content. It's beyond cute.
This year's Read-a-Thon took place from February 19 to March 4, and I'm happy to report that the kids raised the entire $65,000. For that, they got an extra reward: As promised, Principal Chelsea Toller ate a live worm.
Second grade teacher John Miller had promised his kids that if 100 percent of them logged 30 minutes of reading per day for the entire two weeks, he'd let them watch while he got his head shaved. They did, and he did.
Mr. Miller's class also received Glenview Oaklandish T-shirts for being the class with 100 percent reading participation that raised the most money.
Third grader Melody Blankman, fourth grader Ruby Donaldson and fifth grader Malachi Williams won a private lunch with Principal Toller for raising the most money school wide.
Alas, Ms. Smith's third graders narrowly missed scoring 100 percent participation, which meant she didn't have to make good on the promise she'd made them: getting hit in her face with a pie.
I wish these kids didn't have to go out and beg for their own education. I didn't when I was their age. But it is what it is. This is the world we have made for them.
If you'd like to support the Read-A-Thon, you can do it online by going to glenviewelementary.org and clicking on the "Donate Now" button, or by sending a check made out to "Glenview PTA" to Glenview Elementary School, 4215 La Cresta Ave., Oakland CA 94602.