Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Voluntary Reading Vs. Rewarded Reading

Stephen D Krashen's case study, The Power of Reading discusses the importance of "Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and how "fun" reading can be better for kids then structured, graded, rewarded readings. In fact, Krashen directly responds to the question, "Do Rewards Work?" Krashen says that according to Smith, rewarded reading can actually be detrimental, proving to children that reading should always have a price attached to it and that coercion is only reason to do something (Krashen 116). Additionally, research offers no support for using rewards and suggests that rewarded reading my be harmful (117). 

This argument against a reward system proves contrary to the case studies posted on the "Accelerated Reader" website. Those studies show that their quiz based reward system for student reading is shown to improve students' scores on state proficiency tests ( Obviously, their website is attempting to promote the program and displays the studies who's finding show the effectiveness of the program. 

Additionally, The Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse has released findings about the effectiveness of the "Accelerated Reader" program. Their studies have shown that,  "Accelerated Reader was found to have no discernible effects on reading fluency, mixed effects on comprehension, and potentially positive effects on general reading achievement." 

From these three sources, I could surmise that a reward based reading system may have some positive effects across a large group setting, such as a school, in order to improve overall test scores; however, FVR would be more beneficial on a child by child bases, to encourage better reading habits and lifelong love of reading.


"Accelerated Reading." U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, the What Works Clearinghouse.

"How to make an entire city smile: An AR Case Study." Accelerated Reader Enterprise. Renaissance Learning.

Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. 2nd Ed.  Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.


  1. Tiffany,
    First off great post! I really agree with you last statement that while reward reading maybe beneficial, FVR does help instill a more independent choice to read. I was wondering what your thoughts might be on Summer Reading Programs or school wide reading challenges? These make reading on one's own time a choice and what is rewarded is not necessarily the comprehension of reading, but more that they just read a book. Do you think these programs are beneficial or harmful to encourage independent reading?

  2. Maggie,
    Thanks for your comment. As for my thoughts on Summer Reading Programs and similar reading programs, I believe Summer Reading Programs and the like could be the middle ground we are looking for in this discussion between FVR and the reward based reading programs. On one hand, Summer Reading programs encourage kids to read for prize incentives; however, the reading choices are voluntary and there is not any kind of testing for reading comprehension, like you mentioned. I think this relieves the pressure that AR programs create with the quizzes and point level system. Summer reading programs don't require reading based on reading level, length, or what kind of material is read as long as kids are reading. It reduces the stress level in children who may have a lower reading level than their fellow classmates; they don't feel the need to check out the higher reading level books in order to keep up with fellow classmates in the "points" race. I believe that is one of the main drawbacks of AR programs, is that it adds stress to the "non-reader," they are forced to focus on the "points" rather than the reading itself. The students that benefit the most from the AR program are the already established readers, who enjoy reading. For them, the points become "extra" incentives to collect and brag about. Summer Reading Programs and reading challenges definitely lean more toward the FVR system while maintaining the positive incentives of the AR program, thus taking the stress away from the "non-readers."
    Thanks for your question.