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BFTP: Are you creating fat kids who hate reading? 5 questions

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post, January 28, 2009. On re-reading this, I wondered "Is a badge just a re-branded gold star?" Extrinsically-motivated learning programs seem to be growing rather than decreasing in popularity.

Questions about the merits or lack of them of Accelerated Reader and other programs that use points, rewards, and other kinds of extrinsic rewards surface regularly. After all these years, the debate is still whether to use such programs or whether not to use them. Black or white. For'm or agin'm.

The discussion needs to be re-framed from yeah or nay, to how to use such tools well.

These have been my questions/guidelines about any reward-based reading program originally published in a column, Creating Fat Kids Who Don’t Like to Read:

  1. Does my reading promotion program stress personal accomplishment and individual accomplishment? Do students have the ability to set their own reading goals? Can students at a variety of reading levels and abilities meet target goals or will only the very best readers be recognized? Are only a set percentage of students recognized for their accomplishments or will all students who reach a goal be acknowledged?
  2. Does my reading promotion program set goals that promote collaborative work? Are only individuals recognized for the amounts they have read, or can small groups or classes collaborate, working as a team?
  3. Is my reading promotion program only part of my total reading program? Do I still emphasize books, magazines, and other reading materials that may not “count” in the promotional reading program? Are my students also reading books because of hearing exciting booktalks, listening to enthusiastic peer recommendations, and being given well-constructed classroom bibliographies tied to content areas?
  4. Is my reading promotion program available to my students for only a limited duration during the school year? Do my students get the chance to read for the sake of reading after the promotion is over, to really experience the true, intrinsic rewards that come from being lost in a story or learning interesting facts? Have I tried to determine whether my program really leads to life-long reading behaviors?
  5. Does my reading promotion program stay away from material rewards like food, stickers, or parties? Are students or groups recognized for meeting their goals through public announcements and certificates? If I have to give out some physical reward, is it at least a book? (Or low-fat, sugar-free!)

So, what are your ways to build an intrinsic love of reading through programs designed to stress the extrinsic rewards?

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Reader Comments (2)

Thank you for reposting this! I've been spending a lot of time re-evaluating my reading promotion program lately. This gives me some good things to think about.

February 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Rendina

Thanks for the note, Diana. I suspect we will all reach a personal level of comfort, balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and learning. Good luck!


February 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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