Should pizza be used to motivate students to read more?
An Associated Press story about Pizza Hut’s Book It program, which rewards young readers with free pizzas based on the number of books they read, says critics of the program are concerned that it contributes to poor eating habits and encourages kids to read lots of easy books, rather than fewer, more difficult ones.
Company officials claim that Book It is the nation’s largest reading motivation program, reaching roughly 50,000 schools across the country, and turning many non-readers into readers. They also discount the idea that Book It is somehow contributing to the nation’s childhood obesity problem.
It does seem that a couple of free pizzas is unlikely make a kid fat. So it’s hard for me to buy that argument even if the program’s use of the phrase “Mouthwatering Motivation” on its Web site seems to send the wrong message.
However, having watched my sons participate in this program, I can say that it did encourage them to read lots of short, easy books rather than longer, more difficult ones. My boys deliberately looked for as many easy books as they could find and plowed through them as quickly as they could. Not exactly the best approach for building smart, analytical readers.
But if pizza (extrinsic motivator) sparks a love of reading (intrinsic motivator), that would be a good thing, right?
What do you think? Is this an appropriate and effective way to motivate kids to read?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.