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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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Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.
Facilitator 2014

"Rewarding behavior you want to foster is not a negative, even though people might tell you it is."

I'm not sure. Not many teachers or schools (In fact,Linda, you are the first that I know) have the money to give kids ipods when they read. Remember, we want kids to pick up a book, magazine, graphic novel, etc.. when they are on their own when school's out for the summer or forever. I'm not sure if a student will be motivated to read if the hand that feeds them the ipod is no longer so generous. I'm not sure if external rewards foster a life-long love to read.

It's kind of like test prep for the writing section. Giving prompt after prompt will help the writer respond to the prompt and do okay on the test. Will it motivate them and help them gain the confidence to become a real writer? Nope. When they sit down to actually write something real they will always be looking for that prompt. Not good.

Thanks for the post. Keep the discussion going.

Gaetan

ps. Just curious. Did you buy the ipods on your own or were they donated? Grant?

Marie Cimpl's picture

I have been reading these posts with great interest and curiosity. As a teaching librarian I can't agree more with comments posted about the value of a certified librarian....one that is interested in kids and not so worried about the law and order of books in the library. Library media specialists must share their passion for books and reading as much as a classroom teacher. I admit to being a "gimmick" kind of gal. Lots of programs, freebies, bookmarks available to the kids in hopes of luring them in to a new author, book series or becoming a frequent visitor to the library. My wish is that students have ample opportunities to visit their library media centers to checkout, browse, use computers, etc. I would like nothing better than to ban the "once a week checkout" established by the library or the classroom teacher. I welcome kids that might need to visit several times a day! I realize that scheduling gets in the way but many times a visit to the library gets put on the list of things to do at the end of the day.
I applaud the suggestion for the classroom teachers to read to kids....across all grade levels. It is so powerful and ignites more interest in books than you can calculate. It also helps the classroom teachers keep in touch with new books available or ones that are quite popular. Ask your library media specialist for a collection to keep on hand!
I have run numerous all-school reading programs, some with more success than others but enough to see what works, can work or how things must evolve with the times. My programs are always optional. They are for time spent reading outside the school day. It has become more challenging through the years as I realize that some kids might not get the home support that others do. I have also tried to arrange for support within the school for kids that might need that option. One angle I have tried with some success is to offer a small classroom reading bingo party for classes with a certain percentage of participation as a whole class. Many "winners" and minimal cost/prep. Many kids are quite happy with a participation certificate. I, too, struggle with wanting the kids to participate because they want to, not because of what prize they will receive.
Our new library program (Follett's Destiny) allows our users to submit book reviews and that has been extremely popular--the kids love seeing their thoughts published! Can be done as a class or as an individual.
One other hook I am exploring is to lead the kids to the book websites of authors/characters, etc. and for them to get introduced to literature from than angle. Yes, there are some games, but that's part of the fun.
(Reading directions and adding points!) There are many terrific sites that offer these connections for both students and teachers as well. What a great way to teach some technology skills along the way!
The possibilities are endless. Reading programs can be of value when done in moderation. Library reading programs can support the classroom from another route. I am not convinced that AR is good for all children. The testing component is still a struggle for some of our readers that have read the book, took notes, etc., but just aren't the test takers to pass those quizzes. As a reader, I would HATE to take a quiz after a book I have read~especially the ones I am reading for enjoyment. That wouldn't make a lifelong reader out of me. Many of the critical literacy components we are trying to achieve with our students cannot be tested within an AR approach. It's an easy way to monitor things, but I question it's ability to assess reading from a critical literacy standpoint. Again, all things in moderation.

Joan McCall's picture

As a middle school Teacher Librarian, I am very interested in this discussion. My observation is that points and rewards for reading may encourage competitive students to win them, but it will also discourage them from wanting to read for pleasure. According to Stephen Krashen, who has spent a lifetime studying the subject, there has been little research to support testing and rewards but quite a lot that shows the success of giving kids lots of access to lots of print materials. Here is a link to his web page on the topic: http://www.sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=2.

Joan McCall's picture

I do not believe in tests and points for reading. Dr. Stephen Krashen has spent his career studying the subject of how kids acquire language and how kids learn to read. He will tell you that poverty is the biggest barrier to reading success because children of poverty have limited access to reading materials. We can remove the barrier by better spending our money on libraries and trained Teacher Librarians who have all kinds of knowledge of what will appeal to individual kids. From personal experience, I can tell you I'd rather see a child smile from the delight of a new book or graphic novel in his hands than from relief that he passed a test. Read Dr. Krashen's words at http://www.sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=2

Joan McCall's picture

Oops - I thought my first post got lost in the Ether...sorry for the duplication...

Ms. Amelia Brown's picture
Ms. Amelia Brown
Kindergarten Teacher

I also teach in a low socio-economic area. Extending reading beyond the classroom is a struggle due to situations at home and lack of parent invovlement. Of course, better readers read more, and reading more makes then even better readers! So reading at home (or at least outside of school) is important--but how do I make that occur? Has anyone with similar students had success with reading logs or literature logs? I don't necessarily think incentives have to be incorporated with "turning in" a reading log...but can be used as a point of discussion for reading conferences or share-outs. What I have found in the past is that a few students turn them in with gusto...a few fill it in without actually reading anything, and the rest never turn one in. ??

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.
Facilitator 2014

No worries Amelia. I do not teach in a low socioeconomic area and my kids rarely turn in reading logs. That's why I stopped them. They do get reading HW (20 min a night) They only have to write down what they read. You really can't control if they are reading or not at home. You can, however, give kids plenty of time to read during the day. I do my official reading class for about 45-60 min, with the kids independently reading for about 25 minutes of that time. Then I have another time slot for around 35 min of independent reading. That's when I sit and read was well. Thats 60 min of reading mandatory reading a day. Plus, my kids have the option to read when they are finished other work. I also have a slot for about 20 minutes a day for a read aloud. I know we would love for our kids to read at home, but the sad truth is that most parents don't read. Why would their kids do it? I try to inspire as much as a can in class.

Keep working hard. Don't let them grind you down.

Gaetan

Ms. Amelia Brown's picture
Ms. Amelia Brown
Kindergarten Teacher

I definately get in a lot of reading instruction and independent reading during the school day. No probs there. It's just that I KNOW how important it is to reading more often to get better!

But I like your advice: Continue to encourage and inspire...and nix the reading logs. Well, that's easier than stressing about--like you said--trying to "control" what they do at home. Because I can't!!!! I guess in addition to encouraging and inspiring young readers, I can also do the same for parents.

I suppose I could also make still reading logs an "option"....for those advanced readers and those who DO read for enjoyment.

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