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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reading Incentives

I know this is a controversial subject. In an ideal world, kids would read for fun. My sister and I did as kids. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. I read recently that 70% of our middle and high schoolers do not read for fun. I even hear kids in upper elementary lamenting having to read for class-it's not something they enjoy doing. Every year I run a student book club that I am very proud of. We have 2 sections one for K-2 and one for 3rd-5th. I've built it up from about 12 students in the beginning who participated total in both groups to about 80 this year. I don't discriminate, anyone can join. As a matter of fact, I've had parents tell me that because their child who doesn't usually do well in reading participated, they seemed to enjoy reading more and guess what, that translated into higher performance on the standardized tests. I love walking out from meetings and seeing so many kiddos with their noses firmly planted in books! One year a student joined and at the first meeting I was explaining the plan and she said very loudly "you mean we have to read!?!?". Yes, you are supposed to read in book club. She didn't come back.

Some kids need incentives. Some kids are very competitive and just the thought of reading more books than someone else will make them read more. We started using AR (accelerated reader) this year and I do have mixed feelings about it, however I can tell you one thing-kids read more books than they ever have before.

Ok, so long story short. Every year I bet my kiddos that if they read 1,000 books as a class then I will color my hair pink. This is the first class who has done it! So I was obliged to do this:

They are up to over 1,800 books that they've read in 1st Grade. Some I've read-aloud to them, but most they have picked up and read themselves. Chapter books, picture books, wordless books, biographies, fiction and non-fiction-they have read a huge variety. They have time to just read independently every single day. Some kids will opt out of doing a workstation-"can I just keep reading"--how can you say no to that? I go to the library every 2 weeks to check out new books for them to read. I change out our classroom library books every month. They make wishlist for me for the library trips which consists of authors and characters that they want to see more of. I bought each one some books to get them started this summer and you would have thought it was Christmas! They were so excited-I was bombarded with thank you's. For some, these are the first books they will own.

So I believe you have to do whatever works. If they need incentives then give it to them. I saw a principal on the news the other day who slept on the roof of the school overnight because the school read 10,000 books. I've seen principals kiss a pig or shave their heads because reading goals were reached-whatever it takes to get them started with reading and maybe it will inspire them to do more on their own. If nothing else this year I can say that my students have definitely read a lot! They have that passion for reading--I hope it's something that can stay with them throughout their academic careers.


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8 comments :

  1. Awesome! I used to dye my hair blue for Children's Book Week/ Read Across America all the time. Then genetics kicked in and I have to spend enough $ covering up the still too early greys that I won't do the crazy hair colors anymore. #Istilllovethekiddos

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    1. I might have to choose blue next time! :) I know all about covering greys too!

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  2. I love this! And I LOVE the way my school does AR. It is completely optional, but reward based and the kids eat it up. We give out medals for 25 pts (bronze--along with if they get 25 pts before december they march as an 'elf' in our christmas parade) 50 pts (silver) 75 pts (medal) and at 100 pts (a ticket to moonlight madness-a festival of sorts at school from 6-10pm...includes literacy activities, face paint, dancing, pizza and ends with a movie and sleeping bags in the library.)

    When they reach 100,000 words read they sign one of the benches in the library.

    When they reach 1,000,000 words read they participate in the million word reader celebration that the district puts on. They bus kids to whatever the celebration of choice is for that year.

    So I know there are mixed opinions on AR and I HATED it being a grade as a child, but I have grown to LOVE it along with my students. It motivates even my most reluctant reader to pick up a book and I think contributes greatly to their stamina. They LOVE reading by the end of every year.

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    1. I love those ideas-I may have to share them with my administration. This year was the first we did it and we were still getting our footing. My only issue was when kids would look up a book and get mad that it wasn't on there "I read this book for nothing!"--like that was the only purpose. We talked about the benefits of reading a book-any book and I think that attitude changed a bit. You guys have very cool incentives! :)

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  3. Passion is the key. Bless you for going pink. That is not my color. :)
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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    1. I'm not sure it's mine either! :) Luckily it should wash out within the week. I totally forgot it was pink when I went to Wal-Mart after work though! :)

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  4. How do you check that the children really are reading the books...my first and second graders have the tendency to pick up a book and think that looking at all the pages is reading! :) I don't want to discourge them by requiring book reports or the like, but I'd like to know how to really check that they are reading! Thanks! I'm so glad I found this blog!

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  5. That's a really good question. We talk about the books they are reading a lot! They know I will ask them what they thought of a book, especially if it's one I picked out with them in mind. They can write review or make book trailers or do a report in a way that would make it more fun for them. They have book discussions with each other, read with each other. I know if I am reading a book for a book club or something, I'm really going to read it so I can participate in the discussion. I also started using Kidblog and encouraging them to write about the books they are reading. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

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