Back in 2011, I was introduced to a third grader who had mastered just over a half dozen words and who had already accumulated a thick disciplinary file. For privacy, we will call him “Dion”.
I applied a variety of strategies I had been testing with other students, and finally applied what we now call the Read a Book, Earn a Book approach. “Dion” felt empowered and engaged because he choose which book to read, he developed delayed gratification because he had to earn the book over time, and he grew in trust because he learned that he could depend on me. Eventually Dion felt so confident he asked if we could record his reading so that his mom could see “how good” he was. I told Dion that not only would I record his reading, I would coach him on how to read with flair and style. He was thrilled.
Later I heard that he participated in a community theatre production.
Three years later, while reading with a new student at the same school, I heard my name called out “Ms. Miller! Ms. Miller!” I turned… and there he was. This young man ran up and threw his arms about my waist. Overwhelmed, I said “I haven’t seen you for so long… I thought you had left the building! How are you?!” He drew up his shoulders, crossed his arms, leaned back and nodded “Staying out of trouble!” I said “That’s what I wanted to hear!”
With “Dion”, I saw the power of Read a Book, Earn a Book. The power of learning to read in a safe, supportive learning environment.