The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:01:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Yaqui’s text set http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/yaquis-text-set/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/yaquis-text-set/#respond Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:01:13 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39411 Since I wrote recently about using a text set built around the idea of respect and the title Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, a few people have asked what other texts we used alongside it. Our* essential question was “What makes someone worthy of respect?” We were aiming for a […]

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medina yaqui delgado1 Yaquis text set Since I wrote recently about using a text set built around the idea of respect and the title Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, a few people have asked what other texts we used alongside it. Our* essential question was “What makes someone worthy of respect?”

We were aiming for a set that spanned genres, and so the resulting set was both too big to use in our short time but also made of texts that weren’t only from the YA world. It included the some of the following:

  • Poems like “The Ballad of the Landlord” by Langston Hughes and “Ex-Basketball Player” by John Updike
  • A series of quotes about respect from famous people
  • The short story ‘Chuckie’ by Victor LaValle
  • A couple of articles about bystanding and upstanding when bad things happen to others
  • Lou Holtz’s famous first locker room speech at Notre Dame
  • A couple of pieces from the This I Believe collection having to do with self-respect (thisibelieve.org)
  • Several anecdotes from the book Discovering Wes Moore about choices, misunderstandings, and facing adversity

This group of texts are all related to the idea of respect and who gets it and who doesn’t, and the different readings allowed us to consider respect from a variety of vantage points as we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Piddy and Yaqui in the anchor novel.  They also gave us lots of time to dabble in writing different genres.

Text sets are such a fun way to really think hard about important stuff, and I’m excited to keep adding to this set about respect.

*This curriculum for the BGA/BU Summer Institute was developed in collaboration with my awesome friends Marisa Olivo and Lucia Mandelbaum from BGA and Scott Seider from BU. 

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Using Dear Mr. Henshaw to encourage students to write http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-dear-mr-henshaw-encourage-students-write/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-dear-mr-henshaw-encourage-students-write/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:01:17 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39044 Dear Mr. Henshaw, a Newbery medal-winning book by Beverly Cleary, is a great way to get students to think about some of the therapeutic benefits of writing. Of course, you don’t have to mention how helpful writing can be when you need to sort out feelings but you can let students figure this out on […]

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dearmrhenshaw 200x300 Using Dear Mr. Henshaw to encourage students to writeDear Mr. Henshaw, a Newbery medal-winning book by Beverly Cleary, is a great way to get students to think about some of the therapeutic benefits of writing. Of course, you don’t have to mention how helpful writing can be when you need to sort out feelings but you can let students figure this out on their own as they read the book.

Leigh Botts writes to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, as part of a school assignment and when the author writes back and asks Lee questions, his mother says he has to respond. Through his correspondence with Mr. Henshaw Lee learns about accepting life’s difficulties and — with the encouragement of Mr. Henshaw — starts to keep a journal.

In addition to coping with his parents’ divorce and missing his father, Leigh also deals with moving, adjusting to a new school, and having his lunch continually stolen — certainly timeless topics.

While some children may not think of writing letters to an author, they may keep a journal or know someone who keeps one. There are a lot of projects that can be added to the study of this book, including writing letters or journal entries as one of the characters. Students could also write to offer advice to the characters. Introducing students to the basic format of a personal letter (or e-mail) will provide valuable experience.

Mr. Henshaw certainly proves to be more interesting (and interested) that Leigh probably imagined. Reading this book could also foster discussion about the kinds of people your students admire (authors, celebrities, athletes) and what makes a person worthy of admiration. Ask if there are any local, “hometown heroes” that your students admire in addition to people who are nationally or internationally famous.

One of the many takeaways from the book for adults is that adults encourage Leigh to write and while he is hesitant at first, it grows on him. Students who would not write on their own may learn to enjoy it more if a teacher or parent lays the groundwork for them to get comfortable first.

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Third grade transitional books http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/third-grade-transitional-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/third-grade-transitional-books/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:01:58 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39038 Third grade is a funny transition period between picture books (“baby books”) and chapter books (“big kid books”).  Personally, I think there is much to say about a great picture book, but my students tend to balk at the idea of reading them; they want long books with as many chapters as possible. I think […]

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Third grade is a funny transition period between picture books (“baby books”) and chapter books (“big kid books”).  Personally, I think there is much to say about a great picture book, but my students tend to balk at the idea of reading them; they want long books with as many chapters as possible. I think what my students are really searching for is more challenging content, but not all students are ready to enter the realm of the chapter book or even a very complex picture book (meaning fonts, vocabulary, and overall visual structure). So I try to encourage students toward picture books that are meant to be more academic or informative, and relatively straightforward. Here are two of my many favorites.

michelle 233x300 Third grade transitional booksMichelle by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by AG Ford
When I was working for AmeriCorps, my nonprofit purchased this book as a Christmas gift to all its student participants. My students were enthralled by this book because of its subject, Michelle Obama. The book’s text was complex but straightforward enough that it was accessible. It narrated her story without over-fantasizing, and told my students that by working hard, anything was possible. The pictures helped with the comprehension but what shone was Michelle’s values and strength of character. Because of the population I was working with (low income, racially diverse community), I think Michelle continues to be a relevant role model and the reason why the book remained so dear to my students.

redwoods 199x300 Third grade transitional booksRedwoods written and illustrated by Jason Chin
Another great find while working for AmeriCorps, I wanted my students to grasp the height and girth of a redwood tree without ever visiting one. I read this book aloud because the text was sometimes too long and detailed, and needed summarizing or simplifying. This is probably more appropriate for an older grade, but my students enjoyed this nonfiction picture book nonetheless.  Jason Chin also wrote and illustrated two other nonfiction books (Coral Reefs and Island: Story of the Galapagos), but I found this one to be the simplest for 3rd grade.

I know what you’re thinking: what about graphic novels for 3rd grade? That’s another blog post in the making. Until then, what picture books have you found that are both engaging and academic?

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Batter up! http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/batter/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/batter/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:01:32 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39370 With baseball season in full swing, it is the perfect time to check out one of the many great picture books featuring baseball. Here are some of my favorites. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise with illustrations by Adam Gustavson (K-3) Today many baseball fans may not know […]

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With baseball season in full swing, it is the perfect time to check out one of the many great picture books featuring baseball. Here are some of my favorites.

Wise SilentStar 219x300 Batter up!Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise with illustrations by Adam Gustavson (K-3)
Today many baseball fans may not know this, but in the late 1800’s one of the best major league players was William Hoy, who also happened to be deaf. This book tells his story with wonderful oil painting illustrations that will help readers understand both the time period and Hoy’s life.

Perdomo Clemente 235x300 Batter up!Clemente! by Willie Perdomo with illustrations by Bryan Collier (K-3)
Told in English with scattered Spanish words, this book follows a young boy named Clemente as various family members tell him about his namesake, the great Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente. While the book details Roberto Clemente’s baseball career, it also includes other aspects of his life, including his charitable work. It is a great option, particularly for those looking for a book that incorporates Spanish language text.

Adler LouGehrig 300x247 Batter up!Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler with illustrations by Terry Widener (K-3)
Though he is perhaps best known now for the disease named for him, Lou Gehrig was an important figure in baseball well before he was diagnosed. In this book, readers learn about his early life, including his studies at Columbia University and his fourteen years in major league baseball, during which he played in a record number of consecutive games. While the book does not shy away from Gehrig’s illness, it tells the inspirational story of his life both before and during that period.

Winter SandyKoufax 247x300 Batter up!You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Andre Carrilho (K-3)
In a striking departure from many sports biographies for children, this book focuses on Koufax’s struggles and early failures before recounting his rise to the top of the game. Readers also learn about the important role that Koufax’s Jewish faith played in his career, causing him to face discrimination and also leading to his refusal to play in the 1965 World Series because it fell on a high holy day. Though this book will appeal to all baseball fans, those who love baseball statistics will particularly enjoy the way that it integrates important stats into the illustrations at key points in the story.

Meshon Yakyu 300x249 Batter up!Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Preschool)
In this fun, brightly colored book, a young boy goes to baseball games in both the United States and Japan. Side-by-side pages show the differences between the experience in each country, both at the stadium and outside of it. The book integrates Japanese words in the text and unique details of baseball culture in each country into the illustrations.

Thayer CaseyattheBat 182x300 Batter up!Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer with illustrations by Joe Morse (K-3)
This entry in the Visions in Poetry series takes the classic poem “Casey at the Bat” and moves it to an urban setting. The poem is a classic for a reason, and a new generation of baseball fans can enjoy it with the modern, updated images that accompany it.

Bidner JoeDiMaggio 298x249 Batter up!The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of ’41 by Phil Bildner with illustrations by S.D. Schindler (K-3)
Whether you are looking for a baseball book or an exciting glimpse into a period in history, this book won’t disappoint. It follows the separate paths of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as they each chased baseball records over the course of the summer of 1941. The illustrations bring the time period to life and make this book a great way to make baseball fans into history fans — and vice versa.

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Why we love Amos http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/love-amos/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/love-amos/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:01:00 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39033 Sometimes a children’s book is so heart-warming it needs no greater purpose for reading than just to enjoy it. And sometimes you get lucky and a book is not only sweet, but perfect for that lesson you want to teach about characters! A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated […]

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stead sick day for amos mcgee Why we love AmosSometimes a children’s book is so heart-warming it needs no greater purpose for reading than just to enjoy it. And sometimes you get lucky and a book is not only sweet, but perfect for that lesson you want to teach about characters! A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead, is one such book.

Each day Amos McGee goes to his job at the zoo. While there, Amos the zookeeper faithfully races the tortoise, reads to the owl, and even keeps a shy penguin company. Then one day, Amos gets sick and can’t make it to the zoo. In the end, the kindness Amos has shown each day is repaid to him by his animal friends who decide to pay him a visit.

This book is perfect for lessons on character analysis. Through his daily actions, Amos demonstrates his kindness and selflessness. The author himself does not describe Amos; rather, students are forced to pull evidence from the text in order to prove their thinking. Erin Stead’s Caldecott-winning illustrations only serve to support this thinking. Through soft, detailed depictions of Amos and his animal friends, students are able to see — and almost feel — Amos’s actions, allowing for one more kernel of textual evidence that can be used to understand what kind of person Amos McGee is.

Additionally, students are given the opportunity to explore character motivation and relationships between characters. Why does Amos do these things each day? Why do the animals come to visit him? How must they feel about each other?
As an added perk Amos McGee has not only become one of the most beloved characters in my class, but also a positive role model for students. Once during recess I overheard one child say to another, “Are you acting like Amos?” when a group was deciding who to play with.

This simple story of friendship has provided not only so many entrance points for classroom discussions on comprehension skills surrounding character, but also, opportunities to talk with students about their relationships and our own classroom culture. In the end though, this story is one that regardless of the lesson, I still love to pick up and just read for the simple pleasure of reading…and my students do too!

Editor’s note: for more about the Steads and their books, check out our interview with Erin Stead and Philip’s profile of Erin in our July/August 2011 Horn Book Magazine.

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All about literature circles http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/literature-circles/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/literature-circles/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 02:01:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=38941 I know it is summer, but I found (especially as a new teacher) that setting aside a good chunk of time to go Beast Mode* on a specific strategy truly helps in its implementation during the next school year. This summer, I’m planning to reflect on how our literature circles went this past year and […]

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I know it is summer, but I found (especially as a new teacher) that setting aside a good chunk of time to go Beast Mode* on a specific strategy truly helps in its implementation during the next school year.

This summer, I’m planning to reflect on how our literature circles went this past year and figure out how to weave it into new Common Core-aligned curriculum. In my previous post, I gave a lengthy explanation about how I introduced literature circles into my 8th grade classroom and gave three short book reviews. I recognize that there are areas of growth in my own facilitation, so for this post I’d like to open up the floor for you guys to shed some light, share experiences, or submit questions concerning this teaching strategy. I’m also going to share a few resources that helped me jumpstart this strategy in my classroom.

Why do I want to keep growing in this area? Simple!

  • It allows for specified differentiation among reading and interest levels.
  • It allows students to build their Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) through preparation, discussion, and various circle roles.
  • It builds metacognition as students reflect on their preparation and contributions.
  • Once students understand how it works, it practically runs itself!

So without further ado, here are a few websites that offer insight into the implementation of literature circles.

Do you have favorite resources, ideas, or anecdotes from your own experiences with this strategy?

* Beast Mode: Periods of intense concentrated effort as exemplified by former Cal running back (and Oakland native), Marshawn Lynch.

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Using picture books to teach satire http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-picture-books-teach-satire/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-picture-books-teach-satire/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:01:14 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=38811 It is important to expose children to a variety of genres of literature at young age and to do our best to explain the conventions of that genre in developmentally appropriate ways. One of the genres of literature that might not get as much emphasis in standardized tests but is important to be able to […]

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stinkycheeseman 239x300 Using picture books to teach satireIt is important to expose children to a variety of genres of literature at young age and to do our best to explain the conventions of that genre in developmentally appropriate ways. One of the genres of literature that might not get as much emphasis in standardized tests but is important to be able to comprehend and write is satire. (We have failed our students if they graduate from high school and post Onion articles on Twitter and Facebook thinking they are real). Fortunately, there are plenty of  great satirical picture books that are both entertaining and can help young children begin to understand the concept of literary satire.

Probably the best known satirical children’s book — and a good place to start  is Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Before reading The Stinky Cheese Man, make sure you have exposed the children to all the original stories it satirizes because we can’t assume that all five-year-olds are familiar with “Jack and the Bean Stalk,” “Chicken Little,” etc.

Another conundrum is how to explain the concept of satire to young children. I don’t know a perfect way to do this, but I usually explain to the children that a satire makes fun of other stories or something that happens in real life. Obviously, some children will understand the concept more than others and that is completely okay. If a child laughs and enjoys the satire, that’s good enough even if they can’t really explain it. There are also some easy ways to deepen understanding of the concept of satire if children show interest in it.

Here are a couple of simple ways to help children understand satire.

  • After reading satirical books, staple some paper into a booklet and challenge the children to illustrate and write their own satires.
  • Many satirical picture books start off with a straightforward storyline and then feature an ironic satirical twist in the plot. Two great examples of this are The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and That Is Not A Good Idea! by Mo Willems. With books like these, you can pause during story time before the twist and have children try to predict the ending. Then after finishing the story, you can start a discussion with the children about the satirical twist in the plot.

I’ll end this post with a couple of questions:

  • What are some of your favorite satirical picture books?
  • How did you learn about the concept of satire? Was it at school or through “Bugs Bunny” and “The Simpsons” like me?

 

Editor’s note: In the same vein, watch for an article by Jonathan Hunt in the September Horn Book Magazine on using picture books to teach older students about inference.

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Two Arthurs http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/two-arthurs/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/two-arthurs/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 15:59:04 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39138 Here in Boston we are getting ready for a sideswipe by Hurricane Arthur. They’ve even moved the Boston Pops and fireworks festivities to tonight instead of tomorrow. Meanwhile, Arthur is headed for the southeast coast here in the US today. It’s pretty rare for that first storm of the season — the one named with […]

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Here in Boston we are getting ready for a sideswipe by Hurricane Arthur. They’ve even moved the Boston Pops and fireworks festivities to tonight instead of tomorrow. Meanwhile, Arthur is headed for the southeast coast here in the US today. It’s pretty rare for that first storm of the season — the one named with an A — to do much damage, but still one worries. I hope everyone stays safe.

Thinking about this hurricane’s name reminded me of the most famous children’s lit Arthur, Marc Brown’s aardvark. I admit to never watching one of the cartoons all the way through, in part because I don’t like how the character’s face was made so generic for the cartoon version. It’s as if Arthur’s makeover role model was Michael Jackson: lighter skin tone (or is it fur?) and smaller features. I never did understand the color change, but regarding the nose, it’s probably difficult to animate a character with a large droopy nose and short arms. How would he carry anything?

Still, when you compare the first book — which is about Arthur learning to come to terms with having a very large nose — to the present incarnation, I have to wonder what children make of this change.

arthursnose Two Arthurs       arthurnow Two Arthurs

Has anyone had a conversation with a child about the different physiognomies? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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Books that feature poets http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-feature-poets/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-feature-poets/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:01:25 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=38003 Recently some friends of mine from Brookline High — Mary Burchenal and Ric Calleja — were interviewed in the Boston Globe about whether poetry is starting to disappear from schools. I don’t really know, but I sure hope not. In lots of classrooms I visit, poetry is certainly a part of the curriculum. But I […]

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Recently some friends of mine from Brookline High — Mary Burchenal and Ric Calleja — were interviewed in the Boston Globe about whether poetry is starting to disappear from schools. I don’t really know, but I sure hope not. In lots of classrooms I visit, poetry is certainly a part of the curriculum.

But I had a thought recently, that as a teacher, I rarely showed my students many real or fictional modern poets, even though we read poems. I didn’t realize until recently that my classroom collection has been woefully short on characters and authors who choose to write and read poetry. I have lots of journalers, some journalists, and the occasional fiction writer, but not enough poets. Lucky for me, a spate of great options have appeared lately to add to classroom libraries or stashes of text samples for minilessons.

hattemer vigilantepoets 200x300 Books that feature poets      roskos drbird 200x300 Books that feature poets      nelson how i discovered poetry Books that feature poets

On the fiction side, two very different options:

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, by Kate Hattemer
In order to protest a reality-TV show being filmed at their prestigious art school, Ethan and his friends (and his gerbil, a bit of a hero himself) decide to save their school. In order to do so, they decide to write a vigilante poem a la Ezra Pound to get the student body on board. I like to think Pound would have loved to be just this sort of inspiration.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, by Evan Roskos
James Whitman, a teen who struggles with anxiety and depression, loves Walt Whitman, and so tries to adopt Whitman’s spirit in his own life. Threaded throughout with Walt’s words and James’s poetry-esque descriptions of his experiences, this book has many elements, including family struggles, a crush on a girl, and a protagonist who doesn’t always connect.

On the nonfiction side, a book I doubt I’ll forget:

how i discovered poetry, by Marilyn Nelson; illus. by Hadley Hooper
This verse memoir, consisting of sonnets that don’t rhyme, paints the story of Nelson’s military family moving around America during the 1950s. Personal experiences and connections to civil rights news of the day combine to tell a powerful and somehow also quiet story about using words to tell stories.

I can’t wait to use these titles in a variety of ways with students and teachers, and I’d love to hear other ideas of texts that feature poetry or writing generally as a central theme!

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What do I get if I read this? http://www.hbook.com/2014/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/get-read/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/get-read/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 10:01:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=38864 Despite a preponderance of research that shows that external motivators do not increase student engagement and motivation over the long-term, it still seems that you can’t find an elementary school where reading is not at some point tied to coupons to free food, stickers, certificates, or miscellaneous prizes. These gimmicks and contests do reiterate that […]

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Despite a preponderance of research that shows that external motivators do not increase student engagement and motivation over the long-term, it still seems that you can’t find an elementary school where reading is not at some point tied to coupons to free food, stickers, certificates, or miscellaneous prizes.

These gimmicks and contests do reiterate that reading is fun — but only if you get something for doing it. Recently my own school had one of these contests and the experience not only proved ineffective at cultivating a passion for reading in my students, but actually reduced the excitement that some of my them had for reading.

This time around the incentive that was supposed to spur children to become lifelong readers was bikes. For each book read, that child would receive one ticket to be entered into a drawing for a bike.

Each classroom would have two winners: one girl and one boy.

Initially, what upset me most was the division between males and females. My students and I have done a lot of work around gender and stereotypes and this contest seemed sure to reinforce binaries that my students had been learning to question. Additionally, my class has a tremendous gender imbalance, so the odds of winning the bike were almost three times higher if you were a boy — a fact one of my bright young mathematicians pointed out during one of our conversations about the contest.

Though I inquired about the possibility of having a single classroom box and two of the “boy” bikes as the prizes for my classroom, I was told that the “bikes had already been ordered.” As a new teacher, I felt I had to settle for taking the boy box and the girl box, even though it went against my better judgment. While we had some great student-prompted conversations about why there were two boxes, it was difficult to settle for “that’s what the adults who set up the contest said that we had to do.”

As the date for the bike drawing approached, only about half of my students had participated in the contest and I had observed no changes in my students’ reading behaviors. I did, however, witness a number of contest participants quickly flipping through books so they could add the title to their “books read” lists. As with most contests of this type, accountability is difficult to ensure and enforce and the enjoyment of reading a book becomes reduced to a simple means to an end.

On the day of the drawing, my students were moderately excited. Two highly gender-stereotyped bikes had been sitting in the atrium of our school for over a week to drum up excitement. (The boys bike was red and black while the girls was white, purple, and pink — with streamers, of course.) When it was time for the winners in our classroom to be drawn, I halfheartedly pulled out the two names — one from the boy box and one from the girl box.

I was so relieved that the contest was finally over, but my students were certainly not done thinking about it. A few minutes later, a girl who hadn’t participated in the contest came over to me and told me “it hurt her feelings that she had to sit there and watch other kids get stuff.” Another three students in my classroom left the assembly in or close to tears. The melancholy that had swept over my students was palpable and painful to witness. The assembly certainly hadn’t felt like the “celebration of reading” that the organization sponsoring the program had promised.

After the assembly, we talked as a class and discussed ways that the contest might be improved. Their ideas included having a prize that the whole class could win for reading, having everyone win bikes, and having books as prizes. At the end of the talk, one girl said — to nodded approval from her peers — “I just wish that this contest had never happened.”

Another student, who had read the most books in our class but didn’t win, kept repeating: “I read 82 books and I got nothing.” Despite my reassurances that she had gotten to enjoy the experiences of all of those wonderful books and had definitely become smarter as she learned things from the books, she remained dejected.

Whether it is with pizza, stickers, or free movie passes, attempts to incentivize reading fail to cultivate the habits of lifelong readers and send the message that reading is something you should do only to get something in return. Yet these contests continue to proliferate and are constantly dressed up with flashier prizes and greater promises to improve reading habits.

What explains the ubiquity of these contests? I think it is in part, because they seem so harmless. An outside organization or sponsor generously offers to support reading — most likely with the best of intentions. The seemingly innocuous nature of these contests is what makes them particularly sinister. After all, who would argue that giving away bikes to kids who might not have one is a bad thing? The school and local community would most likely vilify a teacher daring to stand up in opposition to such a program. (I’ll let you know how that goes when I argue against repeating this contest next year.)

I am convinced that we must rescue our students from contests of these sorts. If we don’t, we may end up with students who refuse to read a book without the promise of getting something. Surely there must be better ways to engage community partners in joining us on our journey to create lifelong readers who are intrinsically motivated to explore the wonderful world of books without resorting to contests that leave students reflecting that they read but “got nothing.”

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