**Guest post by Anji Seberino**
Why does it seem like kids don’t want to read anymore? Why is it that we have to practically force kids to read? There are many factors, but I hold the gaming industry largely accountable. Kids nowadays would much rather play games on any electronic device they can get their hands on rather than pick up a book and immerse themselves in a great story. How can League of Legends possibly be more interesting than the adventures of Bilbo Baggins? I am not entirely against video games (I have an undying love for Tetris – hah!), but I do think they have somehow replaced a significant amount of time spent on good old fashioned reading in the majority of households.
Somewhere along the way, we as a society (I say society because there are individuals who are exempt) have shifted our mindset into accepting that it is perfectly acceptable for our children to spend what little free time they have on playing video games rather than engaging with a book – either physically or electronically. Think about it…everywhere we go, we see kids playing video games on laptops, tablets and cell phones. Before smart phones and tablets came along, this was mostly done at home on gaming consoles and computers, so occasionally we would see kids reading in public. However, now we see kids gaming in public everywhere we go: at the restaurant during “family dinner”, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the airplane (seriously, when was the last time you saw a kid reading instead of watching a movie or playing a game?), at lunch during school. Perhaps the most appalling scenario is when kids are glued to an electronic device with a circle of friends surrounding them watching them try to “beat a level” while on the playground. Gone are the days when kids went to the library before school to read; now, they do in-fact go to the library before school, but not to read. They are in the library playing video games on the computers and on their electronic devices. The library is packed before school with this activity. Somewhere, somehow, this generation of kids (again, there are those that are exempt) has managed to fall out of love with reading.
As a result, we are now trying to get kids back on the reading track. Many schools have implemented reading programs that reward kids for reaching certain reading goals. In our school district, they have implemented something called the Accelerated Reader Program (AR Program). It works like this: 1) Books are assigned a point value 2) Kids read a book then take the AR Quiz which is a multiple choice quiz on the book 3) Students earn AR points depending on their quiz score. AR Goals are set in points, and they attempt to meet those goals by taking quizzes to earn points. As they meet each goal, they get rewarded with prizes.
So – this AR Program is supposed to motivate kids to read. The school system calls it motivation; it could also be called bribery. The label doesn’t matter so much, as long as it works to help kids develop an authentic affection for reading and push them in a direction where they are choosing to read instead of choosing to spend their time on other useless and unproductive activities. That is the big question – does it work? I suppose for some kids it might. That is, some kids might realize through this program that they do in fact love to read and may discover authors they enjoy, and shift the way they choose to spend their time. For others, the AR Program might just be another task required for school.
Our school has chosen to implement a baseball theme for the AR Program. As students earn points, they “travel” to different baseball stadiums and receive rewards. Students that earn 500 points get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and earn the grandest prize of all: A lunch-time limo ride with the principal.
So, in an effort to support all of this motivation, I created a PTC Mathcad worksheet for each student in my son’s classroom so they can track their progress and visually see how they are doing for each baseball stadium and for the All-Star Team, World Series Team, and Baseball Hall of Fame. Every two weeks on Friday afternoons I go into the classroom and we update each student’s worksheet with the points they earned, and they can view their progress percentage-wise and in the graph. Then they get a PDF version of the worksheet to take home.
Maybe, in some small way, all of this will help to foster a love of reading.