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:
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.