Instead, I incentivized by reading aloud, book talking, being a model of reading, packing the classroom with books, providing time for kids to read, taking class time to talk about what we were reading, etc. Reading had to be its own reward. Otherwise, my kids would become part of the statistics I see about the percentage of adults who read regularly. The thing is that kids who a=see reading as its own reward find or make time to read once they are outside of the walls of the school, the confines of the classroom.
Some of the impetus for this post came from seeing a Facebook post from a former middle school student of mine who is now a leader in a California school district. "All 18 elementary schools are receiving their shipments of classroom libraries beginning today. 375 books for every teacher and each teacher will also receive a 100 title read aloud library. In total we have purchased over 230,000 books for our classrooms and leveled book rooms this school year!"
Make no mistake: I am not taking credit for this phenomenal leader. But I would like to think that his 8th grade year with me helped him know the real value of reading. He had other teachers who did the same, I know. No bribes. Just lots of books and related activities. And now? Here is a new generation of kids who will have the same opportunity to grow as readers, readers who see the value of books and reading.
Back to the NY Times piece: I would have loved to see some other "experts" consulted. How about Alfie Kohn? How about Donalyn Miller? Penny Kittle? Katherine Sokolowski? Mr. Schu? Colby Sharp? Nancy Atwell? This list could go on and on. Seeking the advice of classroom teachers would have been advisable. Sadly, those voices are largely absent. So, this hearkens back to yesterday's post: we need to raise voices when we see something that should be challenged. Don't get me wrong--a parent may certainly decide to offer bribes, etc. But as educators, we need to point out the pedagogical pitfalls of extrinsic motivation.
Reading is its own reward for me and for so many others. We red because we NEED to read; it fils a void; it offers comfort; it assures us we are not along.