Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Turning reading into work

There were a number of comments left on my post called "Daddy, I want a book buck!" where I detailed how the school's reading incentive plan was distracting my daughter from her love for reading.

My 5th-grade son always has loved to read - independently and with others. He enjoyed just sitting alone in his room for long stretches of time reading for personal pleasure. It is one of the things that I and his mother are most proud of - his joy of reading. 
This year, his grade level teachers instituted a new practice of requiring students to read a 100 minutes each week, at least 4 times a week, AND provide a written summary of what they read along with a personal reflection based on several writing prompts. 
Knowing how my son would react to being "forced" to read, early in the school year, I voiced my concerns very strongly with the grade-level teachers, explaining that I believed their reading program would not foster a desire to read, but rather force reading to become just another piece of homework to be completed. Unfortunately, they did not agree with my reasoning, and have continued with the reading program.

As you can imagine, my son no longer reads for pleasure. For him, reading is now "work." Despite the best intentions of his teachers to get the students to read, by instituting measures of "accountability" and "assessment"(the teachers' words, not mine) into the assignment, they have crushed my son's and likely other students' desire to read.

So, incentivizing reading is not the only way to kill a love of reading. Just turn reading into "work" and watch the kids shut down.


  1. another example of ignoring all the research

  2. Research aside, common sense tells us that we will "work" harder at something we love, than something we are told to work at. The teachers, well intentioned I assume, are focusing on the wrong issue. They are focusing on an outcome, rather than an approach. Your daughter and the commenter's son loved and enjoyed reading, that is the issue that deserves the teachers' focus. If students begin to enjoy reading then the desired outcomes will follow (as evidenced by the experiences outlined on this blog).

  3. In the words of Pete Seeger, "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

  4. How did pshircliff get to be the first responder here? Does he receive a bonus? Is there some accountability or assessment for him?

    Probably not, he reads and responds because he wants to learn and share. Why do we think kids are different? And could this be why their creativity and drive decreases with each year they are in school?

  5. I'm an English teacher. I can see why teachers would like to track the amount that students are reading.

    But why minutes per week? And why the extra summaries and other boring work?

    I think it's best to come up with a total-books-read goal rather than a minutes-per-week goal. And if we want to know if our students are reading, we should ask them what page they're on and what's happening in their book...and if they like it.


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