In this post I share three recent articles related to the joy of learning. The first is for parents, and is about "the right way" to bribe your kids to read. While I am philosophically opposed to bribing my daughter to read, I did find some good points in the article (particularly quotes from Edward Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do). The second article is about how to make math more emotionally engaging for kids, and the third is about helping kids to find joy in reading in school. Both of these latter two articles are focused more on teachers than parents. I found all of these articles worth reading.
KJ Dell’Antonia: "But if offering an incentive for reading is such a terrible idea, why does it still seem so common, even among parents who are aware of the pitfalls?
Perhaps my peers and I are too prone to valuing short-term wins over long-term learning (witness our tendency to “help” our children with homework). Or perhaps we just know how important reading is — and care more that our kids are good at it than that they love it.
Some experts actually agree that rewards can be useful, especially for younger learners. “I think we underestimate the power of extrinsic motivation,” said Rahil Briggs, director of pediatric behavioral health at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “You want your child to be naturally fascinated, and some are, but some children can benefit from a little bit of a jump-start.”"
Me: I got to the above point in reading this article, and found myself shaking my head. I don't want to offer my daughter any incentives to get her to read - I want her to read because she wants to. I don't even join library summer reading programs (though I'm sure that some are much better than others).
I think that Dell’Antonia is right that if one is going to offer rewards, there are better vs. worse ways to do that, as she discusses in the article. And I think that every family is different, and needs to find what works for them. So, if you are struggling to push a child to do more reading, to slow down summer slide, you might find some ideas here. But me, I'm going to focus on keeping plenty of books around the house, letting my daughter pick what she wants from the library, and making sure that we have plenty of cozy family reading time together.
Linda Flanagan: "Is there a way to separate negative emotions from the subject, so that more students experience math with a sense of satisfaction and pleasure? Immordino-Yang believes so. “It’s not about making math ‘fun’,” she added; games and prizes tend to be quick fixes. Instead, it’s about encouraging the sense of accomplishment that comes from deep understanding of difficult concepts. “It’s about making it satisfying, interesting, and fulfilling.”
Be clear about why understanding math concepts matters. Kids who believe that they must simply endure algebra and calculus until they’re through with school—and that the actual learning is pointless because they’ll never use it again—should be reminded why understanding mathematical concepts is valuable."
Me: This article has some nice, practical suggestions for helping kids to change their emotions about math, by focusing on the purpose of learning math, identifying role models, and eliminating sources of fear. I've been doing some of these things instinctively with my daughter (like pointing out real-world examples where math is useful to us), and I like having some more ideas.
Adventures in Literacy Land: "Once students find that reading is enjoyable and worth their time, they search for books that will give them joy. They find joy in all that they read, even if it is a topic they don't love. Finding joy in even the mundane makes the task of reading worthwhile...
So many times we offer extrinsic rewards to coax our students to read. Studies have shown that those rewards do no always work. We have to help children find the intrinsic motivation to read. When reading makes a reader feel good, which leads to more reading, which leads to more success with the text. That creates lifelong readers!"
Me: I'm grateful to the author of this post for reminding teachers how important it is to show kids how to find JOY in reading. If we just focus on the mechanics, without teaching kids about what makes reading wonderful, we will fail them every time. It's easy to get caught up in testing and in "improvement". But the fundamental truth is that if kids enjoy reading, they will spend time reading. The rest will follow. This article is part of a series discussing the book Reading Wellness: Lessons in Independence and Proficiency by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris.