May 29, 2014

Incentivizing Summer Reading Programs

It's not a secret to many of my family and friends that I have been frustrated getting my child to read. I still don't understand why reading is not something he enjoys when he comes from a family of fairly avid readers. Thankfully though I'm not against incentivizing his reading - In other words I'll use bribery when necessary.

That's a good thing too because on a recent shopping trip he begged for a toy, so in seizing the opportunity, I decided to buy it and hold onto it until he read a certain number of books to me. Now he been happily reading to me every evening without my nagging him. Now that the end of the school-year is coming close, I have begun to look for summer reading programs that offer incentives.

We participate in the summer reading programs at the Ypsilanti District Library. The kids love getting the free ice cream at the start of the program and don't realize they are working hard to reach their summer reading goal. This year I even signed them up with reading buddies for the summer. The Saline District Library, Dexter District Library, the Ann Arbor District Library, and the Chelsea District Library all have summer reading programs for kids and teens. Just head over to your local library and check it out. I have heard some of the programs offer some awesome give-away prizes if your child completes the program in time.

For parents looking at other summer reading programs, fear not. There are MANY free incentives out there to encourage your child to read this summer, just take a look!
  • Barnes & Noble (3235 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor) - Imagination Destination allows kids to earn a FREE book and reading kit after tracking their reading on a reading log.
  • Chuck E. Cheese - Kids can earn 10 free tokens when they read every day for 2 weeks in a row. Print the reading rewards form, track their reading and take it into a participating location for free tokens! This incentive does require a food purchase for redemption.
  • PBS Kids encourages Summer Reading - Get information for parents and youth to give your child a lifetime of reading.
  • Pizza Hut - BookIt Summer Reading Program - Students in grade K-5 can spark their greatness reading books to be entered into a sweepstakes for great prizes!
  • Scholastic Summer Challenge - May 5-September 5 kids can log reading minutes into the Scholastic site to earn digital prizes! 
  • Sylvan Learning Centers - (1601 Briarwood Circle, AnnArbor) Participate in a free summer Book Adventure program where children (Grades K-8) read grade-level books then take a comprehension quiz. Kids earn points based on how much they remember from reading and can be entered to win many free prizes as they earn points! There are hundreds of books to choose from in all reading levels. 
These types of programs are a great way to encourage children to read throughout the summer months to help avoid summer learning loss. I will continue to add programs as I find them, or feel free to let me know when new ones become available!


  1. Please do not look to incentivize reading. Read this excerpt from Alfie Kohen on rewarding reading:
    "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 (see chapters 3 and 8). 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.

    The experience of children in an elementary school class whose teacher introduced an in-class reading-for-reward program can be multiplied hundreds of thousands of times:

    The rate of book reading increased astronomically . . . [but the use of rewards also] changed the pattern of book selection (short books with large print became ideal). It also seemed to change the way children read. They were often unable to answer straight-forward questions about a book, even one they had just finished reading. Finally, it decreased the amount of reading children did outside of school.[1]

    Notice what is going on here. The problem is not just that the effects of rewards don't last. No, the more significant problem is precisely that the effects of rewards do last, but these effects are the opposite of what we were hoping to produce. What rewards do, and what they do with devastating effectiveness, is to smother people's enthusiasm for activities they might otherwise enjoy."
    As a veteran teacher, I see the damage done with these types of programs when students go to middle school and high school and students are conditioned to expect a reward. Note the sponsors you mention are all commercial enterprises looking to increase their brand relationship with children. Children's independent reading choices should not be for sale.

    1. Mrs. Bennett thank you so much for your comment, it is a very valid point, one I'm sure many of us need to think about carefully. Our library programs also offer "incentives" yet they are not commercial.

      For me anyway, our oldest has a learning challenge with reading. He hates reading and can't find content that it as it right level and not "babyish". We read to him from the time he was born, however his eyes don't work together well. We're working towards improving things. Working with wonderful tutor and caring teachers helps, and in our case so do some of these types of programs.

      I think that most parents need to better balance their child's education, and these types of programs may help.

  2. The reader above does have a good point about intrinsic motivation for reading. That being said, my family with two children that are avid readers often does summer reading programs because the "prize" is often a book.

    Last year, Nicola's books also had a great summer reading program for kids where they could earn books.

    One suggestion for struggling readers, who interests and sophistication, often exceed their abilities is books on CDs. The Ypsilanti library has many choices for books CD, and great playaways as well. These can help increase students' vocabulary and fluency, while keeping them interested in literature.