That paragraph knocked me on my heels. It is not new news for me. I am familiar with Krashen's work and philosophy. But this time he wrote about it in a way that echoed an observation made by my co-worker, Sara Bryce, when we were struggling with our boat issues: "Why are we rewarding kids for expected behavior?" Why indeed?
I have never minded rewarding kids for reading - kind of based on my own feeling that I really enjoy my twice-monthly reward for working - my paycheck! We give a fair amount of doo-dads to the kids but also make sure they can earn a book as an ultimate reward. But I also appreciate and admire folks who have made the break with prizes...just couldn't quite see my own way through to it.
This week, we are giving kids one of the primo SLP gifts - a plastic book bag. This was, with the exception of the book prize, our most expensive purchase (think bookmarks, stickers and tattoos as the usual prize in our arsenal). Kids have been slightly blase. And one of the parents expressed surprise that we were giving out a prize so quickly. In other stealth or passive programs we do (1000 Books Before Kindergarten; Reading is Key Club; Cookie Club), there are very few prizes despite many return visits and check-ins. And here we are... giving out weekly loot.
And, most troubling of all to me, it isn't like more or better prizes are bringing greater numbers of kids into our summer reading program. Numbers of participating kids are continuing at about the same rate as they have in the previous three years I've been doing SLP here.
It also occurred to me that, in our summer Rubber Ducky Club for kids birth through three, we give the kids just two incentives: a rubber ducky and a book. In our summer teen program, we give the kids just two incentives: a USB drive and a book. What is so different for the age 4-10 years old program that we think we need to give out so much loot? As a co-worker pointed out to me, we are still thinking in the same manner we did when we ran the program much differently and traditionally. We have broken new ground with our stealth programs and with redesigning and re-imagining our SLP for elementary-aged kids. Now we need to complete the evolution.
Fear of change is a powerful de-motivator. Despite being a change agent in bringing in and/or welcoming new initiatives and ways to give great service, even I have my balking-at-the-precipice moments. But, on the no-prize/low-prize front, I think I may be almost ready to leap.
[Note: To see where we are on this issue in May 2014, stop by this post: Summer Prizes - Goodbye!]
Image: 'Sinister Ducks' http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503078599@N01/141843714