R!K: A reading incentive that's more than just a reward!

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Do you know a reluctant reader?  Gv, while not reading yet, loves books.  (Seriously, they're her favorite toy, which I guess is no surprise, since we have a little bit of a book problem around here.)

However, I have several friends with children who are just not interested in reading yet.  While I try to assure them that their five-year-old will most likely discover an interest in reading in a few years and catch up to peers quickly, I also know that in the meantime, this causes a great deal of stress, particularly if friends and family are constantly asking "Is she reading yet?" at every opportunity.

That's why I got so excited one day, just before Christmas, when I stumbled upon the website for a unique reading incentive program.

Having taught elementary students for years in the public school system, I am no stranger to the many programs out there, but this one caught my eye because it was so different.

You see, usually students are required to keep a dreaded reading log in which they add each book they read to a list, then they receive rewards based on the number of books they complete in a given amount of time.

The best example of this I can think of is the Book It program through Pizza Hut.  This has been around so long, even I participated in it as a kid.  Each month, kids earn a certificate for a free pizza if they meet their set reading goal.  

It's funny, because while I used this program in my own classroom, often I'd find the pizza coupons on the floor at the end of the day.  When I'd ask the students about it, they'd shrug and remark that the pizza wasn't that big of a deal to them.

Another type of reading program that schools use is Accelerated Reader.  To participate, students choose books from a reading list, read them a set number of times (our school's rule was a minimum of three), then take a computerized test to determine whether their comprehension was high enough to "pass" or not.

They'd accumulate points, which we'd add to a chart on the wall, then when they'd reach certain goals (up to the school to determine), they would collect a prize.

Again, there were many students who just didn't care about "winning" something - they wanted to read for the pleasure of reading, not just for some extrinsic reward.

Of course, there were plenty of kids in my classes who did care about getting stuff, or who were so competitive, they just wanted to win this imaginary reading race they were running against their fellow classmates.

And yes, there were certainly some reluctant readers who were motivated by programs like these, but then there were also those who were not.

Parents of these children would ask for my help - what on earth could be done to help turn on a love for reading?

I explained that for some children, rewards and prizes often don't work because there is no connection between the book and the prize - "Oooh, I can read ten books and get a random pencil? Big deal."  Or, the kids are forced to read books they have no interest in (three times!), then take a test (like they don't take enough tests), which often asks obscure questions about stuff they just don't care about anyway.

That's why what I stumbled across that day made such an impact.

It was colorful.

It was well-organized.

It provided incentives tailored to a specific book that would engage the reader throughout the entire book.

No quizzes, no logs, just going on a fun journey and making all sorts of discoveries along the way.

I contacted the folks at R!K to let them know how awesome I thought their product looked, which led to the opportunity to review one of their kits for myself!

Days later, I received the kit for Ready Freddy! Camping Catastrophe! - just perfect for this camping family to explore!

While I knew Gv and I would have a fun time going through this book together (we were about to finish our current read-aloud, Little House in the Big Woods), when it arrived, I knew it was just too cool not to share.

So, I brought it to our weekly homeschool playgroup.  My plan was to read a chapter a week to the group of eight, but that plan didn't quite work out...

At first, I wasn't even sure that the kids (ages 1 to almost 6) would sit to listen to the story at all.  These rambunctious friends usually spend their time romping around outside, so convincing them to sit for a bit was a challenge.

I read through to the end of chapter two so we could open our first box, which revealed a perfectly matched trinket that went to the child who'd been the "best listener."

Everyone was excited to see what would be in the first box!
A mini flashlight!

I began to pack the box up for next time, when suddenly shouts of "keep reading!" filled the air.

"Okay, just one more box," I said.

Over an hour later, we finished the book.

That's right.  Each time we opened the next item, the kids begged me to keep reading - and 88 pages and 6 boxes and envelopes later, we completed our adventure.

It was so much fun.  Not only was there a coordinated treat to go along with different stages of the story, but each package also contained a "think piece" to consider as we read the next portion of the book.

I don't want to give all the surprises away, but the kit contained a nice variety of small toys, stickers, snacks and treats - something to appeal to a variety of interests.

A couple of us no-sugar-household moms weren't thrilled with some of the candy, but we all agreed that the items made perfect sense and weren't just candy for candy's sake.  Luckily, there were some kids there whose parents had no problem with sugar, so I was happy to be able to share.

I also liked that the kits come with a card (for the parents to read) that lists all the included items and their ingredients.  Not only is it great to have this heads-up for allergy purposes, but for potential choking hazards, as well.

A mom of three boys wondered whether her sons (who sit fine to read books now) would feel the need to get "stuff" every time they read a book in the future, instead of just for the love of reading, but we pointed out that it could be a special treat and that it would be obvious to them when the R!K box came out with a book.

Another 5-year-old's mother remarked that she'd never seen her daughter sit that long to listen to a story before.  She thought this kit was a great idea and would be the perfect incentive to get her daughter to read more often.

Everyone loved the experience, and asked if I could bring more boxes in the future.

In fact, the next week, that sweet little reluctant reader asked when it would be time for another book! 

The mom of of the oldest boy (who happens to be gifted) was excited for him to use one of these kits on his own - "Wow, I bet that would give me all sorts of time to myself to get things done!" 

When we returned home, Gv had me sit on the floor so she could "read" me the book and then had me open the boxes at certain points "Now open this one!" - an activity she continues to engage in, even weeks later.

And she still remembers the story.  I was amazed at this kind of comprehension from a two-year-old; I'm sure the associations made with the different incentives played a big part in that.

And remember that reluctant reader?  I learned that she excitedly told her dad all about the book when he got home from work that day.

If that's not success, I don't know what is.

I feel these kits would be perfect not only for reluctant readers, but also for group read-alouds (like I did), in the classroom to use with small reading groups, to keep a child occupied (without adding screen time), or just as a fun treat for anyone.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see how great R!K kits are for myself - be sure to click on over here to their website to find out even more.

Do you have a reluctant reader, or one who would love to take a fun journey like this with a great book?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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  1. I love the review you shared about the reading kits. I think this is a fun way to engage early Learners to follow and comprehend a story. Thank you for stopping by the #ThoughtfulSpot to share this resource.

  2. My 18 month old is a book fanatic (which i love). We just started a summer reading program for my 5yo. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday!

  3. I'll have to keep this in mind once my kids are older. Thanks for sharing at the Bloggers Spotlight.