Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Book It

As a parent of a ten year old, i have to say that the Book It program is good. There's a real problem getting kids up to the level of reading for enjoyment. That's the point at which the effort required to read is less than the return. Once they're there, getting them to read is no problem, generally. Just put books they'll like in front of them.

Book It did not get my child through this hurdle. The primary incentive was that (mostly) i read to him every day. I read stories that i knew he'd enjoy. Then, on October 11th, 2005 (it was a Tuesday), he crossed it. He went from kicking and screaming to get through five minutes of reading he had to do for school, to reading for six hours at a stretch on his own. This crossing really happened all of a sudden. And he went from hopelessly behind his class to reading over level in a few months. More on that in a bit.

Though the Book It program didn't do it, it did help. And it probably helps get lots of kids through reading for enjoyment. Pizza Hut runs this program. Many schools and parents cooperate by keeping track of what the kids read. At the end of each month, if the child has fulfilled the minimum requirement, they get a coupon for a personal pan pizza.

OK. I recognize that Book It amounts to a "buy one, get one free" sort of deal. He gets his free pizza, but i buy my own. And Pizza Hut doesn't lose money. On the contrary, i probably go there more often than i would without this program. It's still a good idea.

One result is startling. The house was quiet the other day. On a sneak inspection, i quickly opened his door, only to find him reading Shoestrings.

So, Book It has critics. But obesity is not one of my son's problems. And one personal pan pizza a month is not going to make any difference. You may consider pizza to be junk food, but it isn't banned by the South Beach Diet. If pizza has a problem, it's that it tastes good. My spaghetti has this problem too.

So, how do you get a child to read over level? Easy. Once (s)he's reading for enjoyment, put a book in front of them that's slightly over their level that is compelling. For example, Harry Potter. Rowlings deserves all the accolades she's gotten, and more. Six months after really starting to read, he'd read the first five books. Why didn't he read book six? Well, it wasn't out yet.

Having gotten him through reading, i'm now working on arithmetic. He was at the grocery store with me the other day. He wanted yogurt. Sure, it's filled with sugar, and probably isn't the best for him, but i still meter them out at just one per day. The pack of 6 was $2.69. While at the store, i asked him how much each one was. We did the division problem out loud. 6 goes into 26 how many times? 4. What's 6 times 4? 24. What's 26 minus 24? 2. Drop down the nine for what? 29. How many times does 6 go into 29? Five. Five? Oh, sure. He's doing estimates in class. So each yogurt costs how much? 45 cents. How much is Michigan tax? There's no tax on food. Then we bought it. I've edited out the spots where he didn't get to the next step instantly, of course.

Next up is science.

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