As the school year draws to a close (for those of us in the South), I wanted to revisit something I tweeted months ago: The school’s new reading program stinks! This is not just one of my usual rants. I have witnessed first-hand my girls’ waning interest in reading for 20 and 40 minutes each night (kindergartener and 3rd grader). And I am not happy about this. More importantly, I honestly think they feel the program sucks too (no coercing from me)! DISCLAIMER: If you do not believe in rewarding kids, I suggest you stop reading NOW! Also, when you go into work tomorrow, tell your boss that you will work for free for the remainder of the year….yeah, I thought so.
Last year, as like previous school years, ‘our school’ used the well-known and highly effective Accelerated Reader program to both supplement in-class instruction and encourage/challenge the kids to read beyond required assignments. If you aren’t familiar with AR, here is a quick description: A school purchases a license based on the number of students, then purchases quizzes to match the books already on-hand in the school’s library. After students read a book, they take a computerized quiz that determines both their reading and comprehension levels. Each quiz has a point value and earned points are redeemed for various prizes throughout the school year. The major prize is a pizza party at the end of the year.
Ok, so at the start of this school year we learned that the school (i.e., principal) decided not to continue with the AR program. Instead, the students would be working with a new program. Well actually, I don’t think it’s fair to even call it a program. Students in each grade level have to read for a pre-determined number of minutes each night. Parents then record the name of the book, minutes read, and then sign. Initially, students turned in the reading logs at the end of each week. I guess this become cumbersome a waste of time at some point because now kids submit them at the end of the month. (Side note: Think of all the wasted paper involved with this new program! My kids usually filled-up one log within 2 weeks because they read beyond the required time.) Still with me? Good!
Well, one parent offered to purchase the license for the school! Yep….all 1,000 students. Out of his pocket (roughly $5,000, if not more). Guess what? Administration said no. Can you believe that? Well, if you knew this principal….you get the picture. Any way, we (mostly I) was unhappy about this new ‘program’ because: (1) AR worked. As the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it;’ (2) the kids liked it; (3) this new program created more work for teachers (not to mention wasting paper); and (4) someone offered to pay to keep AR in the school. But alas, I tried to put on my happy, supportive parent face. Needless to say, that face wore off really, really fast! As the students submitted their logs and reached their goals, they were supposed to receive ‘tags’ to go on their necklaces/chains (which are dangerous for little kids any way, right?). Well, my kids have earned at least 8-9 tags apiece, but have only received three. I am certain that’s when they lost interest.
Now I am not worried about my own, per se, because we take trips to the local library and Goodwill (.50 & $1.00 books) to keep them reading, but what about the other kids? Those who struggle with reading? Yes, in a perfect world none of us would need rewards to motivate us to do things such as reading, chores, and getting up at 5 AM everyday to spend an hour or more in traffic, but we do. See, in the real world some kids need more than ‘Good job!’ or ‘I’m so proud of you!’ when they accomplish their goals. Believe it or not, a little (token) reminder goes a long way.
Let’s put the ‘fun’ back in reading!