Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reading Rewards

"It's summertime and the living is easy" , oh too easy for children to forget those reading skills they honed during the school year. Now that summer is upon us, we as parents, librarians and educators fret about how to prevent "summer learning loss". After spending the school year advancing reading and study skills, how can we get kids to keep reading and engaged in pursuits to retain their literacy? Libraries offer summer reading programs, but not all children are able to get to the library regularly. What to do? Michelle Skamene, a Montreal, Canada mother who is a web designer by trade, took a pro-active approach and decided to challenge her children to match the amount of time they spent in front of TV and computer screens with time reading books. Her husband suggested that a web site for tracking time spent reading might be helpful to her challenge. And so Reading Rewards and its French language counterpart were born. And thanks to the social web, we can all use it.

The Reading Rewards website is very easy to use. Kids set up a free, private account which must be approved by a parent. Families determine together what rewards should be for a set amount of reading. Kids log in periodically to record their time spent reading and earn RR Miles for their reading (RR miles-- think similar to airline miles) which must be validated by a parent. But the site goes far beyond tracking reading time. They can also see what other kids their age are reading, write their own reviews, and get reading recommendations by age from a variety of sources, including the National Education Association, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, recommended by,Parents Choice Foundation, Cybils, recommended by, Publisher's Weekly Books of the Year, Newbery Medals and Honors, Caldecott, and American Library Association.

Reading Rewards can be used on an individual basis, of course, but has the ability to create groups, making it suitable for use by teachers to manage a group from a single account.

Creating a group couldn't be easier. From the 'Groups' tab, click on create to set up a new group. Give your group a specific name that your kids will be able to find. Put in the start and end dates. Click on 'Create' and you will then be able to add the details for your group and put in a description and rules, if any. If you have a reading target (in minutes), you can enter it as well. Click on 'Apply changes'. You can also set up a default reward for the kids in the group (optional). When you are ready, click 'Publish'.

Once your group is published, just let your kids know how to find it. Tell them to register on Reading Rewards, and find your group in the 'Groups' tab. Once they've found it, all they need do is click on 'Join' to become a member and start tracking their reading.

Rewards can be set up as a group, or individually since some kids need more encouragement than others. You can click on 'Change reward' next to each child's name and modify their reading targets. By clicking on the smiley face next to each child's name in your group, you can send little messages to encourage them. These message appear in their news feed, on their public page.

If you want to have a list of 'Books I Recommend' appear on your group's page, simply click on the 'Add book' button and find the books on their Amazon-driven website. More about this can be found in the slide show.

Think about how you and those you know might use Reading Rewards to keep those kids reading skills in tip top shape over the long hot summer or anytime for that matter. And for those folk on Facebook, you can search an like their page on Facebook:

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