There has been a lot written about the importance of not bribing or rewarding your children to read. (See, for example, this article from cnn.com) I read the articles, and completely ignored them. I am not one to deny research, so I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t listen to the experts. All I am saying is that rewards worked for our family in this case.
Learning to read is hard work and requires a lot of practice. Little ones, especially, do not have much experience with learning something this difficult. Our kids needed an incentive to keep going. We used iPad. We don’t let our kids watch much television or anything else with a screen, so 20-30 minutes of time watching PBSKids was a huge reward. And, I knew that whatever they chose on PBSKids would have some educational value. In fact, they frequently chose Electric Company and Word World, two reading shows, which only reinforced the lessons we had just completed.
But didn’t they learn that reading was the task and television was the fun and exciting reward? No. Our personal experience was that they really needed the reward, until they had become proficient enough readers to read on their own. As soon as they could read books by themselves, they no longer asked for the reward. They just chose to read because they already knew how rewarding reading itself is. Every child is different, so your children may respond differently. If you are worried, what about a reward of reading to them two books of their choice, or playing a game, going on a stroll in your neighborhood, getting to help cook dinner… I’m sure you are more ingenious than I am at finding non-electronic rewards.
One more thing: we reserved the reward for “reading practice.” This meant that, as they became better readers, if they chose to read a book that was significantly below their reading level, I encouraged them to read it to me and got very excited that it was my story time, but I did not give them screen time. I explained the difference between reading and reading practice – one is for pleasure and the other is to help you become a better reader. I don’t doubt that actual reading specialists are shaking their heads at this page, but I am only trying to explain what worked for us. As I have repeatedly said, my two ended up happy independent readers, so they weren’t scarred by my teaching approach!
For a list of 2014 Summer Reading Incentives, click here.