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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Reading incentives

Reading incentives

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Hello! I am new to this group and am also the newly hired Project Director for The Engineers' Leadership Foundation's(ELF) program, "Engineering Better Readers." We've just initiated a new reading incentive program for elementary schools which are low-performing (Stage 3 or 4)and also have rates of F & RL rates of 85% or higher. Basically, children will read books for points which they can use to purchase in the school store for both big (Wi's, bikes, Ipods) and small toys. ELF will donate $5000 at the beginning of the year to purchase the toys and will replenish in Janauary. Children can save points or spend at will. Is this something that you feel would work in your school? Is it something that you would WANT in your school? What are your feelings about incentives? I would really appreciate your feedback as the program is in its infancy! Thank you so much! Patty

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Jennifer Holcombe's picture
Jennifer Holcombe
After School care at the Austin Discovery School (Challenge School)

Although I applaud your great effort, my gut feeling is that this program is wrong. It feels disconnected from the issues at hand. Measures should meet situations. They aren't reading more because they are lacking new toys. Get at the core of why they aren't reading more and there you will find a simple (and cheaper) solution to solve your reading problems. I think we are all using our "heads" way to much in this society and are forgetting simple, basic, truths. Is this an inner city school? If so, these children are probably desperately lacking time with fields, water, grass and trees, not that it will solve your reading problem, but it will start to feed a starving soul... Reading issues probably stem from home life culture/priorities...

Joan McCall's picture

Reluctant readers are also reluctant writers. Let the students select what they want to read and every Friday have Reading Buddy Time. Pair the students up and have them share from what they read that week. You could pull from some of the literature circle techniques and ask them to share some interesting vocabulary, a really interesting fact, a passage that was especially well written, or a plot development that caught the reader by surprise. Pictures can be drawn, painted, or sculpted.

Take them to the computer lab and let them use some of the great free tools available online to "tell" about their book. Have you played with these?
glogster.com, storybird.com, sumopaint.com, dvolver.com

All the above can be used by any age group and are terrific ways to tie 21st century skills with reading and writing.

Annie's picture

So called "reading incentive programs" have done nothing for my two young sons but make them HATE, yes I said HATE, reading. They were both voracious readers before they even entered school. As soon as they entered the public schools with "AR" and "SRC," their interest dropped completely off the charts. Now whenever I try to interest them in reading something, their immediate reply is, "Do I have to take a test on it?!?" "Reading incentive programs," if you ask me as a parent (and a K-12 teacher) only serve to kill the intrinsic motivation in kids who are already reading for pleasure. I'd be completely happy if my sons were never confronted with one again in their lives.

cheryl Best's picture
cheryl Best
Fifth Grade Teacher from Bunker Hill,IL

Yipee! I totally agree! I am a teacher,parent and made-to-do-AR. I too experienced that same responds. For the competitive child it works... I guess... but for the child would truely loves to read, I believe reading incentives foster a "getter done" attitude... not enjoyment.

ElizabethM's picture

I thought a great example of how to use incentives was my daughter's fourth grade teacher. The students were not told what books to read but rather to set a personal reading goal that was realistic but challenging of how many total pages they could read. My daughter selected 500. Every time during the year she hit 500, she was able to select something from the treasure box. Parents and local businesses would donate items for the box and it really worked. My daughter who does not really enjoy reading (yet) was able to select an item from the treasure box three times this year. To prove she read the books, the students were interviewed by the teacher and created a bookmark which includes a synopsis and a drawing to inspire other students to want to read the book.

judith cox's picture

I think Gaetan is on the right track. Watch your students, ask them questions, give them freedom...if they need reading support give it to them. In most cases, you know MOST kids are going to read. It reminds me of Dr. Spock when he said, "Don't worry about potty training. How many 1st graders do you see in diapers?" I suggest re-reading Gaetan's post and imagine what this could look like in classrooms.

Fred Ritsema's picture

Our school AR program is embraced by some of the teachers, but the librarian tirelessly promotes it. She gives out dog tags for each tri-mester to students who reach their AR point goals

I add a prize to the dog tags. If a student from my class, reaches their point goal with a 70% or greater average on quizzes, they get an additional prize.

Robert Easton's picture

I am new to this site, but I have already discovered that I really like what Gaetan Pappalardo says. I was a third grade teacher for 12 years, maybe that's why...

Mary Tavegia's picture
Mary Tavegia
Principal at Cossitt Elementary School

When students earn an extrinsic reward to do something, we send them the message that this task is so onerous that we have to give you something to make you want to do it. That's what reading incentives do for reading - they make it seem like a task that offers no pleasure so there has to be some other reason to do it. Offer children opportunities to read interesting and exciting literature at their personal level and give them the time to do it and they will provide their own incentives to read because they will find they love it. Give them a chance to talk with someone about what they have read, especially someone with whom they have a good personal relationship, and their love of reading is sure to grow - as long as they aren't required to answer tedious literal comprehension questions as part of that discussion!

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