Let’s start this post with some Alfie Kohn:
The reward buys us a behavior — in this case, the act of checking out a book and reading it. But at what price? The quality of performance in general and of learning in particular tend to decline significantly when people are extrinsically motivated. Moreover, once the library runs out of baseball cards, children are not only unlikely to continue reading; they are less likely to read than they were before the program began. Think about it: reading has been presented not as a pleasurable experience but as a means for obtaining a goody.
Needless to say, when I saw the Scholastic Summer Challenging popping up everywhere in the EduBlog world I became oddly angry. Can we not get past the summer reading programs and develop truly meaningful experiences for students to enjoy novels and reading. Scholastic will reward your children if they read books! You can track their progress! Blah!
Instead, I have developed a Top 10 list of things Scholastic could have used the money on instead of rewards. Some of these ideas could be used by individual teachers in their classroom but some might be a little hard (we don’t all have Scholastic money). Some could be used throughout the year to encourage reading. Seriously, these were not hard to think up and many are better than the “read (or lie) and you might win a prize!” promotion.
- Create a website with online forums for students to discuss Scholastic’s best selling books.
- Weekly web chats with their most popular authors.
- Develop a summer novel/graphic novel that gets released week-by-week throughout the summer and culminating on Labour Day weekend with the final chapter.
- Create a weekly summer reading suggestion email/webpage for those students and teachers interested in keeping their reading minds going.
- Create an iPhone or web app that would allow students to track their reading.
- Instead of encouraging teachers to track their students, provide them with a virtual classroom to engage incoming students to read by connecting in a collaborative, safe setting. This might include allowing access to exclusive content.
- Create and provide students with access to online/downloadable high interest magazines for the summer (ie. skateboard magazines, music, entertainment, etc).
- Daily news updates – create a website with links to high interest stories, videos, and websites. Include a comment section for students to engage in discussion.
- Create a special online community (eg. Facebook group) where students can create a profile, share novel reviews and meet other kids from around the world.
- Give away one book, per student for the summer months. A nice gift for dealing with all those stupid flyers throughout the year.
Just saying…. this program is further “evidence of just how many parents and educators are trapped by Skinnerian thinking” (Kohn)
Can you think of anything else?