Well Isn’t It?

I’m listening to Donalyn Miller right now speaking about reading and writing and teaching at the NWP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

She just mentioned a conversation that I wanted to get down before I forgot it.

Donalyn was asked about her students’ reading. “Your students,” the inquirer asked, “read fifty books a year without any rewards or incentives?”

Donalyn replied, “Isn’t reading its own reward?”

Yes. It is. The reading of the book, the mastering of the text, the enjoyment of the story.

That’s the reward. That’s the prize. That’s the incentive. That’s what gets folks to put down one book, and pick up the next one.

We don’t need stickers, or points, or prizes. Just good books, thoughtful people who know their students to read and recommend to them, and students willing to explore the world through writing.

So let’s spend less time with systems that add to the mess, and distract from the books. Okay?

7 thoughts on “Well Isn’t It?

  1. MrsB says:

    I used to believe that reading could be its own reward for all students. But… not all of my students read anywhere near 50 books a year. To my great disappointment and frustration, some students benefit from subtle bribery (grades, points, treats, pat on the back, etc.). Some students will choose to read things outside of their normal habits because they need an extra point, or because the teacher has mandated the genre or topic. These students who complained bitterly about the forced reading, often share with excitement the story or what they learned. Once kids are hooked, they won’t care about the points/grades. Sometimes we need to bait the hook to make a little more attractive!

  2. Mary J. Johnson says:

    Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California, has done extensive research on “Free Voluntary Reading.” The evidence is irrefutable. Kids who read for pleasure (often with the support of school libraries & librarians) read more, write better, score higher on tests, and on and on. You can read about his research results in several articles here: http://www.sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=2

  3. Kelly says:

    Thx Bud. I passed this short and simple message onto the staff at Central

  4. Holli Buchter says:

    No, reading is not necessarily its own reward. Bud, you and I will probably always disagree about this. Reading should be its own reward and for many students, it is. It is for me personally. For those children and parents who painfully sit side by side for hours on end enduring the struggle to read, it is more like a punishment. As a parent, you know that it a battle that must be fought and won. For those struggling readers and those who care about them, the little rewards and incentives used as motivators can be the difference between success and failure. Try sitting beside your child as they struggle to read while sobbing “I Can’t Do This and I will never be able to do this” and see if you have the same point of view.

    1. Bud Hunt says:


      Do you think a sticker or a snack will counteract the frustration? I in no way mean to imply that it’s easy, or that there are never moments where rewards enter in – but too often, we race to the reward before we even attempt to engage the learner. And that’s not helpful in the long term, either.

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