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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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Robin Lively Summers's picture
Robin Lively Summers
First Grade Teacher in Pennsylvania

I am researching student motivation and I am curious if your external motivations are working. I am also wondering how you plan to continue to provide the stuff to motivate the students. What assessments are you using to evaluate this programs success? How are you planning to move students from getting stuff to succeeding to on their own? Incentives are so tricky! I think this type of program would work initially at my site, but I am sure that it would not last, as we have poor follow through with these types of programs.

Bruce Deitrick Price's picture
Bruce Deitrick Price

I'm just now adding a section to my site called "50: Leading Boys To Reading," so I'm immersed in all these questions. I suspect schools tend to conflate two distinct problems: 1) kids can't read, which is often confused with, 2) kids don't get excited about particular books. Kids taught with sight-words are not going to read fluently in most cases, so what motivators you use are not the true issue...If a kid can barely read, and the schools recommend pretentious or difficult books, the kid might give up completely and that's a different problem altogether. I think, better a kid reads comic books than nothing.
Almost everyone agrees: once people can really read, they won't stop. Bribes not necessary.
Although I will add this, my brother, who is very competitive, tells me that around 8th grade, there was a contest for most books read, and he wanted the HONOR, and read some huge number.

(For more of this approach: (#50)


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