Using a Child’s Passion to Grow a Skill
Shann’s rising second grader, Jalen, loves soccer. He would choose to spend the entire day on the soccer field or watching professional soccer TV… or sometimes playing soccer inside the house. She and her husband love soccer as well, and certainly don’t want to ever diminish this amazing passion.
What Jalen doesn’t have a passion for is – reading. He can read, he simply chooses not to. Shann says it is like pulling teeth to get him to practice reading aloud to her. He is a beginning reader, so level 1 and level 2 books don’t interest him at all. Some of his favorite books that she reads aloud to him are the Dog Man books by Dave Pilkey and Captain Underpants books by Pilkey as well. These are above his reading level so not ideal for his independent reading practice. She has searched for books about soccer at his reading level, but simply has not had success.
Recently, Jalen had worn out one of his shoes from his soccer maneuvers, and he wanted a new pair of shoes- but not just any pair of shoes. He had his eye on a specific shoe. That is when Shann had a lightbulb turn on in her head – perhaps she had the answer to his reading motivation. At the shoe store, Jalen picked out the shoes he loved. Instead of simply purchasing them and heading out of the store with the excitement of a new pair of shoes, Shann had a short discussion with Jalen. The shoes were $30.
Shann sets up the plan, “How about I buy these shoes, and you can “earn them” by reading books? Each book read gets you “a dollar” towards the shoes. You will need to read 30 books.”
When they got home from the shoe store, Shann placed the shoes on top of the fridge. She wanted them in view. Jalen and Shann went to their home bookshelf and selected 30 books at Jalen’s reading level and then found two baskets. They put all 30 books in one basket and as he would read them, he would move them to the other basket.
Jalen was pretty pumped about his new shoes, “Can we read one right now, Mommy?”
For the first time ever, Jalen wanted to read! That was the first time Jalen had initiated reading on his own. He placed the finished book into the “finished basket.”
“Can we read another one?” Jalen was on a roll! When he finished the second book, he put it in the finished basket and said, “I need to read 28 more.” Amazing – now this reading challenge also incorporated math!
The next day, Jalen read four more and continued to give Shann a countdown of how many he had read, and how many more he needed to read to get to 30. He read all 30 books in a week! After his 30th book, he was so excited and proud of himself! Shann took the new shoes off the top of the refrigerator, and Jalen laced them up and ran into the backyard to play soccer.
The next day Jalen asked his mom if he could start a new challenge. He is on his way towards earning a new soccer ball.
About the Author: Debbie Markland
Hi! I am Debbie Markland, Education Consultant for Learn As You Play. I teach with Shann in Atlanta, Georgia where I teach a class of 16 pre-k students. I have taught for 18 years total! I have worked with age 2 all the way through middle school. I have enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of educational practices since I first taught in 1991, and being immersed in these changes enables my own learning to continue. I like to describe myself as flexible, creative, and open-minded. I strive to continuously be building curiosity in my students!