Pizzas, roller coaster rides entice young readers
Pleasantdale Elementary School principal Matt Vandercar reads "Don't Fidget a Feather" to Jennifer Maita's first-grade class. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:17AM
BURR RIDGE — Some kids love to indulge themselves in a good book. Others need a little encouragement.
At local elementary schools, that encouragement comes in many forms, including pizzas, baseball tickets and even roller coaster rides.
“My kids are reluctant readers,” said Gina Nelson, parent and PTA member.
Nelson and Kim Barker coordinate the school’s participation in the Six Flags Read to Succeed program as well as Pizza Hut’s Book It! program. Readers who meet their reading goals can earn a personal pan pizza each month from October through March.
“It’s huge,” Nelson said.
And in the months when the kids can’t earn pizzas for reading, they can enjoy a free trip to Great America. Participants who log six hours of independent reading will receive a ticket for themselves and discounts for their families.
“We give them about a month,” said Nelson. This year’s reading logs are due by Feb. 22.
She said this is one time of year when she doesn’t have to nag her children to pick up a book.
“All they want to do it sit down and read so they get their tickets,” she said. “It works great with my kids and I’m sure it works with other kids.”
Donna Halpin, reading specialist at Gower West Elementary School, said incentive programs are about more than getting kids to read.
“We have to educate the parents that time reading at home is so important to students’ progress in reading,” she said.
Gower students not only can earn Great America tickets, they also can earn the privilege of storytime with Principal Gina Rodewald.
“Once a month teachers select students who have read independently and they are invited to story time with me,” Rodewald said.
Storytime with Principal Matt Vandercar has been a weekly treat for students at Pleasantdale Elementary School for 19 years. The reading sessions are so popular, at least one child insisted that his family postpone their vacation so he wouldn’t miss storytime, Vandercar said.
“This time is called PERK — Principal Enjoys Reading to Kids,” Vandercar said.
PERK sets an example for kids and shows them that reading can be fun.
“Reading is a skill, like playing an instrument. You have to practice to get better at it,” Halpin said.
Halpin said a child who reads just one minute a day reads about 25,000 words in a year. A child who reads 20 minutes a day increases that number to 1 million.
“It makes a huge difference in a child’s success with reading,” she said.
And in the short term, it just might earn them a treat or two.