Friday, February 3, 2012

unruly rant: reading = fun + duh + mental

My daughter brought home a "Reading Log" today.

And believe it or not, I'm pissed.

"Reading books is a sweet treat!" it says. And then it encourages my child to color in a cupcake every day that she reads a book. At the end of the month, I sign it, and she takes it back to school, and they give her a certificate for a child-sized pizza at Pizza Hut.

And you know what?

I threw it in the trash.

I mean, I get that we're not normal. I spend 95% of my free time either reading or writing. There are towering stacks of books in every room. And we buy books for the kids, too. I almost never turn down an intelligently worded request. There are books on the floor and the kitchen table and the stairs, books under their beds and in designated book boxes and stuffed between the car seats in my car.

No one in our house can walk three feet without encountering a book.

And I know that we're incredibly, incredibly lucky, and that not everyone has the access to books that we do.

But coloring in cupcakes and turning in worksheets and earning $3 worth of pizza? That's not how you turn a kid into a reader.

If you want your children to read, you buy them books. You read them books. You ask them to read books to you. You let them see you reading. You make sure that books are always around, waiting to entertain and delight. You make books into friends that you can turn to again and again.

You make books a priority and a fixture.

This worksheet is not a philanthropic way to encourage children to read. It's a great way to sell pizza to parents rewarding their kid for coloring in cupcakes. After all, your kid's pizza is free, but mom and dad and the other kids are going to want to eat, too. So basically, you save $3 on your kid's pizza and spend $30 on unhealthy food for the rest of the family instead of spending that money on, say, BOOKS.

So yes, books are a sweet treat.

But please don't pretend that your ad from Pizza Hut is encouraging reading.

I deeply resent the fact that public schools allow this crap into my life.

You know what's getting my kids excited about reading?

It's not pizza.

It's reading.



Fred Kiesche said...

Absolute truth. Excellent posting. We got our daughter to read by reading to her. Halfway through the summer between grades, she asked if she could read the books herself. She never looked back. In third grade she was tested as reading at a seventh grade level.

ChaosMandy said...

Your house sounds like ours - there are books everywhere. Emily can't read yet, but she wants to. She will sit with her books and 'read' them.

I'd throw it away too - that sort of thing makes reading a chore so the cupcakes can be colored and pizza obtained. Which really does defeat the point of getting kids interested in reading.

Liz in Virginia said...

Sing it, sister! When my kids were younger one of the saddest things a teacher requested was for volunteer parents to come in and read to some of her students every day -- because no one at home was reading to them. I just found that heartbreaking.

And! Once when my five-year-old tall boy and I were waiting for his school bus, we pulled out some books from the basket I kept in the car. (Yes. We drove to the bus stop. Arrest me.) His classmate got wide eyed when she saw them. "Where did those come from??" When my boy told her that some were library books and some were our own, she was shocked. "You mean you have books?? In your *house*??"

EttyOop said...

*applause* I agree -- feel the exact same way! You can't walk 2 feet in our house without tripping over stacks and stacks of books. And that is why all three of my kids love reading: because they are exposed to books, have access to books, and have been taught that BOOKS are a great reward for doing something special. Not pizza.

And I am always thrilled to see others with the same viewpoint :-)

Anonymous said...

Can I get a tl;dr?

Anonymous said...

I fully agree that reading to your children from a very early age is a sure fire way of teaching a love of reading. I can't count the boxes of books I have given away to our school after my kids outgrew them and that isn't counting the boxes and books on shelves we have here. My kids love to read because I did what you did. But rethink your anger toward Pizza Hut. I know that these rewards also reward the restaurant with extra sales, but they also do reach some kids whose parents weren't as great as you. Those like Liz mentioned that didn't know you could have books at home, those that won't take their kids to the library or read them to sleep or awake or just cuz. If it takes a personal pan pizza to encourage reading that might then become a love don't knock it so hard. Again, the best way is your way early and often and continued, but anyway to teach a love of reading is a good way. These programs aren't aimed at kids with parents like you and me they are aimed at parents who don't parent...
Tricia in VA

delilah s. dawson said...

tl;dr = My kid's school send home a reading log whereby if she reads a book every day, at the end of a month, she gets a $3 pizza from Pizza Hut, and it made me HULKSMASHY over the fact that it's not an ad for reading, it's an ad for pizza that makes Pizza Hut look like they care.

Anonymous said...

I read it, kid. I was just teasing.

But I agree with the other anonymous - when I was teaching, maybe 1 in 30 parents had books in the house. Not everyone has a former juggler for a mom.

delilah s. dawson said...

I still don't think a free pizza is going to change that. There's nothing to stop them from just coloring in the cupcakes and getting a free pizza without reading a single book. It's a flawed system.

Anonymous said...

I must say, I'm a teacher and I agree with you. Cupcake coloring is not the way to create a lifelong love of reading.

However, keep in mind that all children do not come from a home like yours.

There are some parents who don't love reading and don't care if their kids do either. If a measley pizza coupon motivates a kid to read, the world isn't going to end. A quality teacher will give them an assignment to go along with the cupcake coloring, too.

You are within your rights to throw it away. As a parent, I might, too. But as a teacher, I am always looking for something, anything to motiate that unmotivatable child. If it is pizza, so be it. If it makes his mom drive him to Pizza Hut and buy dinner so they can eat together instead of in front of the tv, then it's worth it. Maybe a crazy coupon parent who didn't care about reading before will suddenly get motivated and take their kid to the library for free books. If it gets a book in the hands of a child, I am all for it.

Rather than rant, why not volunteer with struggling readers or organize a book swap?

Is it a flawed system? Yes. But there are other things that should outrage you about the public school system instead of free pizza.

Lindsay from FL

Kate said...

It irritates me to no end when schools do this... Forsyth county is guilty of pushing an advertising agenda when it comes to reading or sports activities too...