Every year at this time, our elementary school begins its Read-a-Thon fundraiser. Each kid is supposed to find sponsors willing to pay so much money for so many minutes. I love the idea of a read-a-thon. I love the idea of kids reading books instead of watching TV or playing video games. I love the idea of kids using their imaginations as the words in books create visual images in their minds. I love everything about books.
The kids get so excited. Some read and read and read. I can feel their excitement. My own kids get very excited too, especially since the school offers prizes. But, this is where my enthusiasm ends. The student who collects the most money gets a huge prize, while the child who reads the most minutes only gets a small prize. Now, I understand this is a fundraiser and in this economy schools are suffering, but I believe that a child who reads thousands of minutes during the two week period should be rewarded appropriately. I think the message to the kids is wrong because it tells the kids that having a lot of sponsors and making money is more important than reading. Besides, kids can't control how much money someone is willing to donate, but they can control their choice to read instead of playing a video game.
I also think the program should reflect the different ages. A kindergartner is going to have a much more difficult time reading for 800 minutes (the school goal for each child) than a fifth grader, yet the younger kids don't receive any recognition until they have reached exactly the same goals as the older kids. Seems a bit unfair to the younger kids.
I have tried to convince the organizers to offer goals more in line with the younger kids and I've also tried to convince them to reward the highest minutes with the same kind of prize as the most money, but I haven't been successful. So, I've designed my own prizes for my kids according to their abilities and what they want most. What is that prize? A day home with me. Yep, that's what they both said they wanted most.
I want my kids to be readers for the love of reading and the amazing places a book can take them. I want them to have fantastic imaginations and use their minds. This read-a-thon is a great idea, but I'm not so sure the execution of the idea is the best it can be.