I walked along the large, wide cafeteria table and scanned the assortment of electronics, games, and age-appropriate toys. Above me, there was a banner flapping in the biting December wind. In bright, bold letters, it announced, “Accelerated Reader Prize Day.”
My heart leapt when I saw the off-brand CD Walkman near the end of the table. I snatched it from the pile and made my way to the facilitator.
“And what’s your name?” she asked in an affected voice. I tried not to ignore the condescension.
I’m thirteen, lady.
“Melony,” I answered. She lifted her eyebrow. “Foster. Sorry.”
She scanned her clipboard of names and points. I wanted to tell her I was in the top five of the school, but I kept my mouth shut.
“Oh, here you are!” she said glancing up from the page. “Do you like reading?”
“Yes, ma’am. Very much,” I answered.
“You have so many points. You must read alotta books.”
“I do,” I said with a slight hint of pride.
It was almost a month since the school librarian told me about the chance to win double points in the Accelerated Reader Program. The school had tested poorly in literature, and they were looking for ways to incentivize the students. My end-of-the-school-year goal, a thousand plus point prize, was within reach. I only needed to read several small books or five big books to reach my target.
“What type of books do you read?” she asked.
“A bit of everything,” I answered. I didn’t want to admit that to earn enough points for this prize, I forced myself to read Babysitter’s Club, Fear Street, and Nancy Drew. A book and a half a day and four on the weekends. But it was all worth it for a prize my family could never afford.
Earlier that school year, I wouldn’t have been caught dead reading 4th grade reading level books. House of Seven Gables, Heart of Darkness, The Screwtape Letters, Lord of the Flies, All the King’s Men – these had been my standard reading fare before the announcement.
“Well done!” she said, glancing at my spoils. “You deserve this.”
She deducted the points for the Walkman. I thanked her and pressed the package against my chest as I made my way out of the cafeteria. I couldn’t wait to show my friends and started thinking about which CD would go in it first.
I wondered if this is how rich people felt all the time.