Reading proficiency by third grade is the strongest indicator of high school graduation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Reading opens worlds through imagination and provides access to endless information. Although reading is vital to a child’s development, it can be difficult for parents and teachers to encourage reading in young students. When you provide an incentive for kids to read, you increase the likelihood that they’ll learn to love and value reading.
Teachers at Fillmore Elementary School in Oklahoma City Public Schools partner with Braum’s Book Buddy program to offer sweet rewards to young readers.
Book Buddy, a reading incentive program, supports community schools by enticing students with Braum’s treats in exchange for reading. The incentives, though small, can make a big difference to young students who need encouragement as they practice their reading skills. This year, over 400,000 students from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas are enrolled in the program.
“At the beginning of the year, I have students who will come into my room and say they don’t want to read. They’ll try to get through the required reading, but don’t want to do anything extra,” said Holly Wilson, a second grade teacher at Fillmore Elementary.
Participating in Book Buddy helps her students reach reading goals by incorporating an important element into learning – fun, and of course, ice cream!
Book Buddy in the Classroom
Incentive is powerful with young students. Fillmore first grade teacher Jere Templeton uses the program to refocus her class on reading with effort.
“My class can get a little fidgety and the coupons bring them back in,” she said. “It gives them something to look forward to.”
Students are more eager to grab books outside of the classroom to earn reading points and keep their eyes on their goals. The extra reading practice is often vital to their success.
“It makes a dramatic difference,” Templeton said.
She even goes a step further by having her students write and draw about the book they’ve read so they can interact and comprehend the stories they read. She expects that all this practice will pay off in the end.
“I really believe that the extra reading they are doing will be reflected in this year’s standardized reading exam scores,” she said.
While students get excited about free ice cream, the program has truly proven to be much more.
Learning to Love Reading
The program has lead students to develop a love for reading, which in turn has improved their reading levels. Wilson can recall a former student who participated in the program and who continues to benefit from the reading habits he developed while he was in her classroom. She said that he initially started reading just for the ice cream prize, but in time he developed a deep love for reading.
“He started reading more often and graduated to larger books, and then he was reaching for chapter books before I knew it,” she said.
Although a few years have passed, he still loves reading to this day.
“His mom told me he’s started reading Harry Potter,” Wilson said.
Current students at Fillmore are also benefitting from the regular reading. Adventures have been shared with Pete the Cat; stops have been made at the Magic Treehouse. Wilson’s class is vocal about their favorite series.
“Green Eggs and Ham is my favorite book,” second grader Adrian Burrola said.
More reading means more exposure to different topics. Wilson includes books in her classroom about baseball heroes, African American history, and holidays.
“Once the students show an interest in a topic or time period, I really see them gravitate towards those kinds of books,” she said. “Passion and interest grow from independent study.”
The students’ excitement stands as a true testament to her statement. Their exclamations on a variety of subjects can be heard walking down the hall any given day of the week. “We read about the Titanic in class,” said Angel Rose Alvarez, one of Wilson’s students.
“I have a lot of Christmas books at home,” said 2nd grader April Faire.
Participation in Book Buddy continues to grow steadily each year, with participating schools in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas.
“I wish more schools did this program because it’s one of the best programs to encourage and engage kids in reading,” Wilson said. “They want the ice cream. It is a sweet and tangible thing that they can strive to obtain. By them reading and having to take responsibility for what they have to do they are increasing their word and learning knowledge.”