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Reading Incentive Programs: Do They Work?

A presentation about my research on the effectiveness of reading incentive programs. Fall 2012 LBSC 5113

Colin Peck

on 3 December 2012

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Transcript of Reading Incentive Programs: Do They Work?

The Big Picture
Do these programs work? Major Reading Incentive Programs Similarities Among Programs Reading Incentive Programs
Do They Work? Scholastic's "Reading Counts!"

Accelerated Reader by Renaissance Learning

Earning By Learning

Pizza Hut's "Book It!" program

Local Reading Incentive Programs Students are given rewards or prizes for reading a specific amount of books.

In the Reading Counts , Accelerated Reader, and the Earning by Learning programs, students must take quizzes over books’ content to receive rewards.

The rewards given often do not have anything to do with reading. (A free pizza, money, other small prizes, etc.) What the Research Says... Where's the controversy? Some experts believe that reading
incentive programs get students to
read for the wrong reasons, such as
extrinsic motivators. The Major Problem... Research done by proponents
of AR support its effectiveness,
but other research is not as
positive. If used as a supplemental tool
for students to practice reading
skills already taught, these
programs might be effective. When used as the primary source of reading instruction in schools, reading incentive programs teach students to read for reasons other than enjoyment, allow them to judge their abilities based on a point system, and do not help them develop essential reading skills. It is the only
program. Students choose
books from a list of selected titles based on their reading level. Provides an (optional) point system
to motivate students. This reading program
is not used as
in schools as the AR
program. It is the most commonly
used reading incentive
program in schools
(Johnson & Howard, 2003) It consists of four major
(Krashen, 2005). 1. Selected book titles
2. Allotted reading time
(an hour per day)
3. Quizzes over books’ content
4. Rewards for points earned
on quizzes Dallas Independent
School District fifteen-week
program sixty-four participating
elementary schools Students receive $2 for
each book they read during
the program up to 20 books. Students receive more prizes
from their libraries even after
they receive the maximum
incentive from the program. Students read a specified
amount of books to receive
a free personal pan pizza. In local programs, students usually receive prizes
that go along with reading, such as bookmarks, bags,
gift certificates to bookstores, or even free books. Proponents of AR argue
that the program is effective. Other research is less supportive of its effectiveness. Many studies have uncovered that reading incentive programs do not improve students’ reading comprehension and growth or develop their love of reading. One study argues that AR contributes
to students’ low self-esteem and
negative attitudes toward reading. A few studies have found that schools that use
AR or other reading incentive programs
have improved their test scores. After one year of participating in AR, the
reading skills of inner-city school students
in grades 3-5 improved based on the
Gates-MacIntie Reading Test
(Johnson & Howard, 2003). A study in 2004 followed two similar fifth grade classrooms in Mississippi. One school used AR and the other did not. Over the course of the school year, there was no significant increase in reading achievement growth in the group that participated in AR. However, the group that did not use AR obtained higher test scores (Melton, Smothers, Anderson, Fulton, Replodge, & Thomas, 2004). Others say that giving students prizes for reading
turns an activity that is supposed to be enjoyable
into an obligatory task or chore. Alfie Kohn states on his website,
“What matters more than the
fact that children read is why
and how they read.” (2009) Students often read superficially instead of
reading for meaning when they use AR. In one study, students in intermediate grade classrooms participating in AR judged their reading ability more on the basis of the AR color coding and point systems than on other indicators of reading achievement or progress. The students, parents, and teachers were focusing more on the rewards than the students' actual reading growth.
(Mallette, Henk, & Melnick, 2004). When the points and rewards are
the main focus, some students
choose easy books to read and
earn points quickly, which does
not challenge them in the
long run. According to Mallette et al. (2004), AR promotes competition in classrooms,
presents the opportunity for students to feel internally good or bad about
their reading, and it has the potential to encourage high readers to feel
confident about their ability while allowing low readers to doubt their
abilities even more. High readers in the AR program
gain the most progress because
“reading begets reading”
(Johnson & Howard, 2003). Ruth Small (2009) argues that
reading incentive programs add
even more testing to an already
test heavy environment. Schools and teachers decide to use
reading incentive programs, such as AR
as their sole reading instruction program. According to the AR website, the program
“is designed to serve as the practice component
of a comprehensive reading program.” Reading instruction should include things like
book talks, reading discussion groups, story maps, graphic organizers, and other activities to get students thinking about what they are reading. Good readers know their purpose
for reading, they think while they
read, and they read for meaning
(Johnson & Howard, 2003). These programs do not help students develop essential reading skills because they are only designed to be practice tools for skills already
taught by the teacher. The quizzes used in AR and other programs
only test students' surface-level knowledge of the books they read, which does not challenge them to read for deep meaning.
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