George Lucas Educational Foundation

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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Peg Becksvoort's picture
Peg Becksvoort
Librarian Falmouth Middle School Maine

I agree and applaud Gaetan's comments.

I will add: use your school library!

A library is not a collection that you have in your classroom. A library is a collection that is developed by a professional who gears the books to the wide-ranging interests of all students in the school. It includes materials on all reading levels - non-fiction, graphic novels, and magazines as well as the usual fiction. After all, we know that the more you practice doing something, the better you get. Let them read what they like and they will start to like a lot more reading, and they'll like reading a lot more.

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

Sorry if this has already been said...but let's not forget the sheer power of our words. We teach children that language is powerful, so be sure you are using that power yourself by simply (and often) offering general praise. Words do more than deliver content--they can motivate, build confidence and nurture self-esteem. The little toy or candy or whatever that students earn as rewards for reading will be gone sooner than later. But when we simply comment on a child's success and awesome-ness in what they do/learn regarding literacy...we are motivating them to go on and do more!!! The benefit of these intrinsic rewards aren't immediately obvious to us--but unlike "toys" they STAY with our children. Sometimes forever.

Pasquale DeVitto's picture

I always tell my students that they are, like it or not, stuck with me forever! I think many learners are very intuitive. They know if we're sincere or not. I used to complain that video games and cell phones were responsible for creating passive learners.

To be sure, technlogy can be maddening for educators. And it's certainly true that if given the choice to save either a drowning teacher or a sinking "system", most young folks would pick the "system". (OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration!)

Check up on them whenever you can. They love it- no matter how old they are.

I think most educators would agree that our day doesn't end when the school day ends. I don't think it should end even when the school year ends!

Pasquale DeVitto's picture

I like to leave books on the desks of my former classroom students. I usually leave a note that says something like "Thought you would enjoy this. Guess who!" I was trying to come up with a silly name instead of "Guess Who". The only thing I could come up with was "Book Fairy". I don't think I could pull that off with goatee and all.

Any suggestions?

Kim Wilson's picture
Kim Wilson
Thirs and Fourth grade Title I teacher from Yonkers, New York

Yes, this incentive program is something that will work in my school. I do not find fault with incentive programs. It is difficult to explain to a third or fourth grader that the habits that they form now in regards to reading will benefit them in the future. They need a tangible benefit, like NOW. As long as it gets them reading, it is great!!

Fred Ritsema's picture

I shop the Scholastic Book Warehouse sale, exclusively the bins with 6 books in the plastic resealable bag for a dollar or fifty cents, depending upon the price that sale. I get 2-3 books that I can use in my classroom library, one or two books as prize books, the remainder are for other grades; or, in my case they are sent to our outdoor school (Waskowicz)in case campers forgot to bring a book. The plastic bags I use as individual student book bags in the classroom. Very few books went to charity and I threw out only a few worthless books ( like WaterWorld- the new movie-from the 80's). Try it.It is great.

Miranda Genova's picture

As a Kindergarten teacher, I have to admit there are some incentives involved in my classroom. Kids are encouraged to read (books, poems, etc.) as a class using a marble jar. Students have to work together to fill the jar and when it is full they can vote on a reward (extra recess, rootbeer floats, etc.) However, this is not only an incentive to read, it is also a creative way to get them to work as a class. The students can only receive a marble if ALL of the class has read their book to at least three people the previous night. I often see my kids reading to their older siblings while waiting for the bus or even reading to each other before school. It is a super cheap way to encourage reading and team work!

I also think it is important to model excitement for reading! I enjoy reading and as we read our chapter book (most of the time I am reading it to them) each day, we talk about our different ideas and perspectives and make predictions. It is very interesting for them to learn what the other kids are thinking. It also helps them to be open to others' ideas and suggestions!

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