Saturday, August 11, 2007

Books and Movies

Here is a simple idea we started in our family this summer that really encourages reading in a very fun way. I encourage you to give it a try as well, and to recommend it to your patrons as they check out videos and books.

The new rule in our house is that no one is allowed to see the movie (whatever the movie happens to be) until AFTER they have read the book or had the book read to them. I started the rule this summer after a string of revelations that occured during my performances at libraries all across the state celebrating the Summer Reading Club in Texas.

Virtually all the children were familiar with both the movie and book versions of Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express" as well as both the book and movie versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But almost no one knew that Shrek was a book written by Caldecott winner William Steig. Similarly not many children were familiar with the fact that Caldecott winner "Jumanji" (also by Chris Van Allsburg), "Zathura" (Van Allsburg), Katherine Paterson's Newberry winning "Bridge to Terabithia" (1977), and a host of other very popular movie titles began as great books.

As an added bonus, this new rule has actually created a sort of family ritual that we all hope will continue for some time. With all the hype about the last book in the Harry Potter series coming out as well as the fifth movie in the series so close in conjunction, even my 5-year-old daughter has caught the bug.

She was interested, but could tell that the movie was probably a bit scary for her. So when she asked about seeing it, she seemed a little bit relieved when we told her that she would have to start with the first movie which wasn't as scary. So we began reading a chapter per night in book one with occasional "bonus" chapters read during the day if she finishes tasks we've assigned her.

My wife has been listening in as I read and tells me she is very excited about starting book 2, and I will admit that I don't read enough fiction and it was good to force myself to enjoy something just for fun, even if I "had" to do it for my daughter.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Great SRC Ideas!

WOW! Two whole months without a single post!

What do you expect? It's summer. This is my busiest season. As the summer comes to a close I have most of summer 2008 already booked and four shows booked for summer of 2009! This is getting a little bit crazy, but I love it. Word keeps spreading which is great.

But here's the gist of this post. I got some great ideas over the summer as I toured the state and decided to bring back some "best practices" to share with all of you. The first idea is one for my professional public librarians, though I'll bet my school librarians could apply it, too. Within the next few days I'll be posting an idea that can be used by anyone who has children, so you'll want to come back soon and check it out. I promise it won't be another two months before I post!

Many of you know that in my previous life I was a behavior specialist for a school district here in Texas. In my training and experience I have learned that while there is some very real value to external motivation (e.g. rewards and prizes for participating in SRC, the AR point system, etc.) there are some real drawbacks, primarily the lack of INTRINSIC motivation (e.g. reading because you love the story).
I don't want to start a huge debate here (although, this IS a blog and you are welcome to comment on any post, even if you choose to do so autonomously). I do however want to share an idea that I think is a near perfect blend of external and internal motivation. It also has the added benefits of being cheap to implement and inspiring for even the lowest-level reader.
This idea came from Linda Youngblood of Harker Heights Public Library in Killeen, Texas. Thank you Linda for daring to try this idea in the current wake of "prizes! prizes! prizes!" only to prove that this idea is every bit as motivating, and in many ways, more so. Linda might have gotten this idea from somewhere else, but it was beyond brave to try it out given the pervasive history of "bribing" children to read with McDonald's coupons and dollar store crap.
Total cost to the library: $35.00 (MAX!) If you are wondering what to do with the rest of your SRC budget call me, but I probably won't be available until 2009 and even that is booking fast but I'll do my best to help you spend it all if you need the help .
Concept Overview: No prize distribution, but rather a TEAM effort to build the longest paperclip chain possible.
Concept Details: For every book read (or every 10 minutes, or every 20 pages, or however you decide to break up the units) the child gets to contribute a paperclip to the paperclip chain. The chain will be hung around the library for everyone to see.
Because there are no tangible prizes involved there is little, if any, incentive to fudge the reading log as we all know happens (but not in MY library). One of the problems with the AR program is that children can take a test as many times as they want and guess at the answers and many times pass the test without reading the book at all. With this program I'm going to share there is virtually no incentive to lie because there are no prizes and no "easy points".
Using this program even the lowest level readers will be inspired to participate. Many times reluctant readers learn that they have to read ten books (or so many pages, or X number of minutes) in order to get a prize and they disqualify themselves before even starting. But with this program EVERY SINGLE book/page/minute counts. If the reader turns in a log with only one book on it, then by golly, they get to add one paperclip to the chain. Which reminds me of the most brilliant aspect of this idea.
Because it is a group effort, there is never a sense of "Well, I won't be the top reader so there's no use trying now." Rather, everyone sees the chain growing and is inspired to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Each effort, rather than discouraging others, inspires others.
In fact, Linda was telling me that they started a concurrent contest among the adult patrons. Do you have competitive adults in your library? Do you have patrons who get upset at the sound level of your summer programs? Encourage them to compete against the children by reading as many books as they can. There are many variations: Staff vs. Children vs. Adults vs. Seniors.
I tell you I get so riled up just thinking about this idea! Don't get me wrong, I love the SRC and all that it has done and all that it continues to do. But as a behavior specialist, I can tell you that I am really excited about the possibility that this concept holds for our overall objective.
Of course, you can still use the paperclips after the SRC has ended, so this really doesn't cost you anything!