I just started reading this book a few days ago. It's one of a few non-fiction books I'm currently reading, so I'm only about half way through it. It's a great book so far. I keep thinking that everyone who is in any way involved with children should read this. If you are a teacher, you should read this book. If you are a school administrator, you should read this book. If you make policies for/about children, you should read this book. If you are a parent, you should read this book. Everyone else should read it too. If you don't consider yourself a reader, read this book. If you can't read, get an audio version.
I've only read the first half, but from what I've gathered so far, it's a book about sparking children's interest in reading. Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade reading teacher. You may not be a reading teacher, or one with 6th graders; but the lessons she's learned and shares in this book can be applied to anyone, anywhere. Most library workers have been doing a version of what she's talking about for years. We talk up a book and peak the interest of perspective readers. If you're a reader, you've probably done it yourself. It's talking about this great book you read. In my case, sometimes I'll even talk about books that have piqued my interest but I haven't had a chance to read yet. The best part about that is that I can get some feedback to prompt me to remove it from my list of want-to-reads or to move it up on my list.
Donalyn Miller also states her opinion that reading shouldn't be linked to rewards:
"I have never observed a student who developed a long-term reading habit because of an incentive program. Even if the students are somehow motivated to read because of the ticket, free pizza, or other prize, odds are that they will abandon reading as soon as the incentive is earned. Unfortunately, the only purpose these programs serve is to convince students there is no innate value in reading and that it is only worth doing if there is a prize involved."
That's pretty much been my experience in my 12+ years of winter and summer reading programs. The kids who are avid readers rack up points like nobody's business and those "reluctant" readers read a few books and take home some cheap trinkets. The playing field leveled once I started valuing the time spent reading vs. the number of books read. But again, the avid reader already has a habit of reading. It's just a matter of writing it down in order to get a prize.
I pick out the prizes for the winter and summer reading programs. You would think that with the avid readers I have at my house I wouldn't buy junk. But, you'd be wrong. Money is tight and we want to make sure we have something for everyone. I run a prize store. The kids get a library dollar for every 20 minutes they read. Some kids come on prize day and earn $3 while others earn $60. Guess what they all look at? Yep, my kids have brought home all kinds of $1-$5 things. Guess what I stick back in the prize box at the end of library store. Yep, a lot of "good" high ticket items. You would think that after 12+ years I'd know what the kids would want. But, as soon as I figure it out, it changes.
This year our winter reading program's theme is Curl Up With A Good Book. Yep, there's a bookworm curled around a book on the ice at the curling arena. I don't know much about curling. But, I've got left-over polar bear, penguin, snowmen/snow-women and snowflake stuff from past years. I started looking over the trinkets available last week and just couldn't get myself excited about it. So, this year we're going to do something a bit different. Bigger set prizes for each minute of reading goal met. Yep, incentives. They're expected for the library reading programs. And, I'm happy to hand them out. Every year I hope to turn on the bulb and light someone's way to a life-long reading habit. I don't think the incentives have ever sparked that, but perhaps the repeated reading and talking about books over the course of the program points some kids in the right direction.
|<><>>||The young mind is pliable and imitates, but in more advanced states grows rigid and must be warmed and softened before it will receive a deep impression. ~Joshua Renolds|