Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Encouraging a Kindergartener to Read

Firecracker is pretty good at reading.  We knew she was well prepared for kindergarten in the reading department, but her reading as really taken off in the last few months, and she's on fire.  Pretty much every time she sits down to read a book that's new to her, she impresses me with how many "hard" words she can figure out on her own.

So it turns out that the reading work and homework she's doing in school is a bit easy for her.  It's great review.  She loves school, but we want to her to challenged.  The challenge then for us has been how to keep her motivated to do reading at home that pushes her a bit, without being pushy.

I won't say that this is the right answer for everyone, but we've struck on a good answer for Firecracker.  We have known for a long time that she is VERY motivated by rewards, and she wants immediate gratification.  (I know...that describes pretty much every kindergartener.)  So we came up with this 100 books chart.  She gets to mark off one square for each book she reads, one square for each line she writes in her journal, and two squares for each "AR test" she takes and passes at school.  (AR tests are reading comprehension tests on the computer that are available for a lot of popular kids books.) 

On the 5's she gets to choose something from the "prize box" and on the "10's" she gets to choose a new book from a stash I keep in the closet.  Thus she is never more than 5 books away from a reward.  We've also filled in a few extra special prizes...like tonight she just earned a Chutes and Ladders game for reaching 25 books.  At 50 Mom will go and eat lunch at school with her.  At 100 she gets to have a little "hot chocolate" party with her friends. 

The "prize box" has been populated by dollar store "treasures"...you know the kind of stuff I tend to think is junky, but she LOVES.  I basically walked around the store and when I saw stuff she'd be begging for if she was with me, it went in the cart. 
We're probably good to go for somewhere around 400 books worth of dollar store prizes.  I can hardly believe I let so many dollar store items into my life.  I had to keep reminding myself that what I was paying for was incentives for her to read...not the twisty straws that would get gunked up in a week or two and get tossed in the trash.  And I had to remind myself as she was drawing all over her face with the Halloween make-up sticks she'd earned that she'd earned the privelge of making a mess with them. 
The "new book" stash is a combination of inexpensive books from her book order and a large supply of easy readers I was lucky enough to find at Goodwill for 50 cents each.
In both the cases of the prizes and the books, she actually chooses from a box with only about 7 or 8 items in it and then I restock that one as it empties.  That way she doesn't skim all her favorite things off here at the beginning and then have less enticing rewards later.

The chart has been working great!  Because Firecracker is always so close to the next reward, she is very motivated to read an extra book or two here and there to push her up to the next spot.  When she realized she was only four away from the new game, she chose to read 4 of her own bedtime books, whereas otherwise she would have just read the one required for her reading homework.

Once she reaches her first goal of 100 we'll make a new chart.  When I told her that we'd make a new 100 chart when she finished this one, she said, "No!  We need a 101 chart because that comes after 100 and it should go to a zillion!"  Next time we may space the rewards at 6 or 7 books to stretch things out a bit, but we'll see.  So far I'd say it's been well worth the investment.

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  1. Haha - I love it that the incentive for reading is...more reading! What a great program. Wish I'd thought of this when you kids were young.

  2. Great idea! It's so great that she has such a love for reading!

  3. Super awesome. I'm totally impressed with her reading skills. And I thought of her the other day as I watched the marshmallow video again. :) Also, it looks like you're going to have to lock up your make-up pretty soon. :)

  4. I love the idea of earning books by reading books! And, as annoying as dollar store prizes can be, I think they make great incentives too =)


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