A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a teacher’s blog with a post that expressed considerable concern about the Reading Rewards premise. That reading should be for fun, and not ‘funds’.
I absolutely agree.
I started Reading Rewards a few years ago, when my two boys, then aged 8 and 10, were really reading very little, and spending way too much time on their video games. The initial concept for the reading program was simple. If the boys wanted to be able to play their video games, they could, but had to spend at least an equivalent amount of time reading. That was the deal.
I certainly never planned on ‘rewarding’ their reading forever. But I had 2 reluctant reader boys, and I was willing to try anything.
In my personal experience, I saw amazing results, and these have been echoed time and time again from users of the site.
The point of the rewards, initially, was just to get them started. The more time they spent reading, the better feel they got for the types of books they enjoyed. The better book choices we made (together), the easier it was to get them to spend time reading. And eventually, the RR Miles really stopped mattering, and they were happily picking up books in their ‘down’ time and sitting down to read. Believe me, 4 years later, we CERTAINLY are not doing rewards/RR Miles or any other incentives.
They really HAVE found that the reward is in the reading, and that tagline on our website is no coincidence.
While the incentive portion of Reading Rewards was certainly a key element for me when starting the site, it has grown into so much more. In fact, many teachers/users of our site do not even use the incentive portion!
I really, truly believe, as was demonstrated with my own boys, that finding the right books, and carving out dedicated reading time in busy schedules, is the key to independent reading success. With that in mind, we have slowly developed more and more features on the site that can help kids find books they’ll love. By connecting to friends and classmates, and being able to share what everyone is reading, we think this can really help kids find books they’ll love, and help turn them into avid readers.
So while the key to independent reading is the key to raising reading scores, students should not be raising profits for software companies as well. There are other features on this software that are admirable. The site includes places for reading logs, creating reading wish lists, and peer sharing reviews, but those features could be accomplished on a (free) blog or wiki without the distractions of prizes or rewards.
Our website has always been free. By the way, did you know it is run by a massive team of 2 moms? We certainly aren’t some big software company.
And the other features mentioned above should not be dismissed too easily, since we really believe that the logging of reading and sharing of reviews amongst peers is one of the pillars of independent reading success, with or without the rewards. But if some kids need a little boost, need a little challenge, need a bit of extra recognition in the form of a reading badge, moving up a ‘silly level’, or a ‘Great job on your reading!’ comment, then we are absolutely thrilled to be able to provide that.
Our mission is to get kids reading. Get kids reading for fun. We absolutely agree. If you find, months or years later, that you are still having to promise rewards in exchange for reading time, then something is not working. But if a couple of trips to the Dollar Store, or a family movie night, is what you need to get your child started on the path to reading success, then we hope you will consider it! And if incentives are not your thing, we hope you will explore all the other great features of our site that, we believe, are helping build a community of life-long readers.
If you have any great ideas on how to get kids reading for fun, we would so love to hear from you!