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    home reading programs
    By Cathy-Dee

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    I have had both success and failures with home reading programs. As the other post mentions it is often the parents we are encouraging more than the children. Here are some things we do to encourage reading at home.

    - availability of books - some families do not have books at home, especially books that the students should be able to read as well

    - I send home books in a book bag with a sheet that the parents sign - it is quite simple - title of book(s), date and a space for comments. The students get a sticker on a chart for each day they bring back their book bag AND their sheet is filled out. I had too many children this past year who would take their bags back and forth and yet no one was reading with them.

    - I hold a parent meeting first thing in the year and talk about why reading at home is so important. I also go over reading strategies and how the children do not need to know every word in the books that they are reading. As well as the benefit of being read to.

    - The children receive prizes for filling out so many stickers on their charts. At the beginning of the year I may do it for the first 10 stickers and then the next 10 stickers, after that it is per reading chart (each chart has room for 30 stickers). The kids get to go in my prize box. At the end of the year they also earn prizes depending on which sticker chart they are on.

    - To encourage the book bags coming back and forth I put in little surprises every week or two - a bookmark, a sucker, a pencil, an eraser, a sticker, etc., to make it fun for the kids.

    - We tried some of the more extensive programs - school wide - sticker charts in hallways - earning "big" prizes such as pizza parties, bowling field trips, movie afternoons, etc., After two years what we discovered, is the kids who read on a regular basis and are supported home read and those who are not do not read that much more. We might get them for one of the prizes, but then they lose interest or their parents simply do not support them. So we moved it back into classroom programs with each teacher planning.

    - some of the incentives I've seen used in other classes and schools
    - lunch with the teacher
    - decorating cookies
    - pencils and erasers
    - a field trip
    - a "fun day" - making bubbles, doing outside games or indoor games, centers, etc.,
    - a certificate
    - extra computer time
    - a book
    - bookmarks
    - crayons or pencil crayons
    - prizes from a prize box

    - The sticker charts are ones that I buy from a teacher supply store - I use Autumn leaves in the Fall, then a snowman, etc., so each one is different. These are displayed prominently in the room. I find that after the first parent-teacher interviews where I can point out the charts (especially for the students who are struggling and not participating), the parents seem to get more involved and better at participating. But even this year I have 4 students who still have the Fall leaves chart. I phoned parents, I raised concerns at both interview times, I wrote comments in their report cards. And yet these children love to read in class even if they are weaker in this area - so it is the parents who are not supporting the reading.
    And I only ask that the children read for 15 minutes each evening (and in the first few months they can be read to for most of that time).

    I guess my advice is to try an initial program or idea and then modify it as necessary. You may have a wonderful year with 100% participation and the next year it just doesn't work. I like to begin with less "prizes" and more homework based as I want the reading to be the "prize". Then I add prizes or incentives if the families need more encouragement.

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