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November 15, 2017

Is the Student Reading for Knowledge, Enjoyment, or the Prize?

Written By: Hannah Graham

Achieving Reading Goals: Reward vs. Intrinsic

How are we going to get the kids to meet their goals? This is a nagging question often heard among teachers desperately trying to motivate students to achieve those reading goals.  Some teachers feel that students need material rewards.  While others strongly believe the reward should be intrinsic only or reading simply for the knowledge and satisfaction is gained. But who is correct?  The controversy is apparent throughout the education system: intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. But in the elementary setting, this conundrum becomes a nagging question to most teachers.

In a society plagued with materialism and the “millennial” debate, have we lost a generation that loves to read for the sake of reading? As a child coming up through the system of accelerated reading, I stressed over making my goal every six weeks. If not for a strong family of readers, my own love of reading might have been lost. Fortunately, my parents supported me by convincing me  to read the books that I enjoyed to keep my interest level up while combating my hatred against the points I was required to achieve.

How My Experience Has Influenced My Teaching

Personally, I am torn between both sides of the controversy. As a student, I remember wanting to meet my goal for the prizes: the charm necklace, my name on the wall, and teacher approval. I realize I am taking an approach in my own classroom where I am offering incentives. District policy states that our students must meet certain comprehension levels and point goals, and I agree with my district that our students must be held to that standard. However, I find myself “bribing” students to meet those goals  because, to my dismay, they are not reading for pure enjoyment.

Compromise and Personal Preference

The solution, I’m convinced, is compromise or finding a solution somewhere in the middle of the two strategies. Perhaps if the use of incentives helps students achieve their goals to become a more proficient reader, then the student will find genres or subject matter that they enjoy; therefore, establishing a love of reading versus material gain.  When I became a reader for knowledge, I then began to read for enjoyment. So, as I beg and bribe 7 and 8 year olds, my hope is that in years to come, they see the value in literature.

As a teacher, I have personally witnessed how reading goals have helped students become proficient readers. It is that moment for which all teachers live. Would proficiency have been achieved without a point level and reward system? That is a question left for each teacher to decide through their own experiences and judgement.

Much like an athlete practices his sport, a student must practice their reading skills to reach a goal level. I believe that a goal driven student wins the coveted prize of reading for intrinsic value, a lifelong learner and lover of books!

What is your opinion? Do you believe that reading goals should be met with or without rewards?









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