What do you think of read-a-thons?

Saturday, November 8, 2008.

Read-a-thons are a common tool used by schools and literacy organizations to motivate children to read. In fact, the school that our two daughters attend has an annual read-a-thon and their summer camp acknowledged reading achievements.

On this edition, we reflect on our own reading experiences as children and consider the impact of read-a-thons now that we’re parents. Listen in as we wonder aloud about the effectiveness of read-a-thons, ways in which we can motivate children to love reading and the importance of preschool emphasis on language, pre-literacy and a love of reading.

Links to resources mentioned:

HOTLINE VOICES: Illustrator Holly Dewolf explains why The Stinky Cheese Man (by Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith) is her favourite book.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on a favourite children’s book. Leave us a voice message on the JOMB listener hotline, +1-206-350-6487.

Filed under: Discussions,Podcast


Comment by Just One More Book!!

November 8, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

loribourne: @JustOneMoreBook No, they don’t. Research shows that if you reward someone for doing something, and then take the reward away, …they almost never do it again. Reward kids for reading and they’ll read less when they’re older (if at all) This book does a great job explaining the dangers of rewards – even mentions readathons at one point: http://zi.ma/8cd450

Anyelday: @JustOneMoreBook in my experiences they only motivate kids who already like to read

Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books

November 8, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

I remember how much fun it was to fill in the little boxes over the summer with how many hours or books I read. The self-satisfaction was a huge motivator for me, and now as an adult I don’t think anything has changed. I still love to see the lists of books I’ve read.

Comment by Alkelda the Gleeful

November 10, 2008 @ 1:00 am

My mom wouldn’t let me be part of the MS Read-A-Thon because she said it was to encourage children who didn’t like to read (though I was more than welcome to do the Math-A-Thon). I suspect she just didn’t want me going door to door asking for money to read. Sigh. I would have loved to have been paid to read. I still would.

Comment by Terry

November 10, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

I’m with you. I’m not a big fan of read-a-thons. Kids who struggle with reading need companionship (like your daughters reading with young children), not competition. When I was tutoring one-on-one, we would have goals, but I liken those to playing golf: you’re measuring your ability against yourself, not comparing yourself to others.

I wish schools would spend more energy on reading groups, either for a “lunch bunch” or as an enrichment activity. The last thing we want is for reading for pleasure to look like more homework.

Comment by Just One More Book!!

November 10, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

How sad, Alkelda!

Terry, I love the “lunch bunch” idea — and that the name of the group doesn’t include the word “reading” or “book”.

I was thinking that it would be fabulous to have super-cool,action-packed & fun afterschool programs (not associated with a school or library, but with a community centre say with energetic, hip highschool student leaders) that would be based around reading and enjoying irreverent, wild&crazy books like Gantos, Sciezska & Pilkey. And, just as soccer afterschool activities aren’t called “exercise clubs” or “leg-strengthening” it seems a rowdy reading-strengthening afterschool program needs a kickin name that is welcoming (and not seen as being for ‘nerds’ or as remedial work groups).

Comment by christine tripp

November 11, 2008 @ 12:58 am

I think I grew up in that “lost generation” of readers, who’s parents read for entertainment, pre TV.
These parents, and teachers, would have never understood the need for bribing a child to read a book and I guess I still don’t. Books are (or should be) like every form of entertainment, you either like it, want to do it, or you don’t. If you don’t, you miss out on something very special but that is a choice a person (even a child makes) and perhaps they will change their minds at a later date. Meanwhile, I do not see a contest to read as a substitute for WANTING to read. I am really not a READER per say, though I love books and have gone through many of the classic kids literature at a later date then perhaps my parents did, but here I am, making my living illustrating children’s picture books.
Funny but sometimes just reading the Saturday Morning comics in the paper is enough to make a difference in the life of a child…me:)

Comment by C. Steel

November 12, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

I’m in need of several ideas for great fun reading programs for students ages 10 – 13… can anyone offer any ideas? I like the “lunch bunch” but think it may be too “young” for this group of up-and-coming-almost-too-cool-to-be-caught-reading kids…

Comment by Heidi Estrin

November 15, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

This is a topic that pushes my buttons. Years ago when I worked in the public library I really struggled with doing Summer Reading Club because I felt it cheapened the reading experience to pay kids off to engage in it (see Alfie Kohn’s book PUNISHED BY REWARDS:The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes for back-up on this concept). Also, Mark and Andrea are right that the red tape involved is enough hassle to turn anyone off. I agree that avid readers don’t need it, and reluctant readers won’t be engaged by it (though they may be engaged by the prizes, it won’t turn them into readers).

Selling kids on reading can be so easy, really – all it takes is a good amount of reading time spent with one or more enthusiastic adults — so it’s strange that we dream up all these complicated schemes to achieve those ends when it’s really not necessary.

btw, it surprised me to hear that M&A weren’t readers as kids, since both are so gung ho now! Personally, I was a big reader as a kid but I was also a little snob, so I never joined readathons or summer reading clubs because I looked down my nose at them – I knew they were meant to trick book-hating kids into reading, and I saw myself as above all that!

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December 2, 2008 @ 12:05 am

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April 7, 2010 @ 9:41 am

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September 13, 2012 @ 10:53 am

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