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Last week, my second-grade son’s teacher wrote the following in her weekly email to parents: “February is the time of year that we all get a little ‘too comfortable’ with our friends and the routines.” She encouraged us to remind our children to listen to directions and to make kind, respectful choices. It is wonderful that the students are feeling comfortable at school—but when “too comfortable” leads to loss of focus and waning respect for the rules, teachers and parents need to help the students find their way back.

Back when Read Naturally founder Candyce Ihnot would present at full-day seminars, she would often start by telling a story about her youngest child, Tommy. One day, Tommy came home from elementary school and angrily declared, “I hate school.” Tommy was the son of two schoolteachers—his declaration was basically blasphemous! When Candyce asked him to explain why he hated school, his lip started to quiver. He told his mom about independent reading time. “She doesn’t even know,” he said of his teacher, “I can’t read.”

Read Naturally programs are highly motivating and therefore highly successful. Even so, some students need an extra boost to remain engaged. If you have a student or students lacking in motivation, our curriculum experts have a few suggestions.

I think most parents and teachers would agree that bribery isn’t always a bad thing. Nobody wants to resort to it, of course, but having an emergency pack of lifesavers to dole out to the kids when the going gets tough is sometimes, well, life saving. The problem with bribery is that it can work well in the short term, but it’s often not the best path to long-term growth.

Flip on the 2016 Summer Olympics, and you’ll quickly see that today’s athletes are the best of all time. Records are being shattered left and right. The best sprint times of Jesse Owens, once considered the fastest runner in the world, wouldn’t even earn him a medal today. And if you really want to be blown away, compare the Olympic women gymnasts of 1936 to the “Final Five” who captured the gold in Rio. To say there’s no comparison would be an understatement.

In elementary school, I remember participating in a reading incentive program with a simple premise: The more books I read, the more points I’d receive toward a reward. Because of the reward, my classmates and I were highly motivated to spend our free time reading. What’s not to love about a program like that?

There was just one problem. I could read a long, challenging chapter book slightly above my reading level in the same amount of time it took my classmate to read a dozen quick, easy books below his reading level. Who earned more points? My classmate. What did I learn? Quantity beats quality. Don’t challenge yourself.

The program had a fantastic mission, but there was an unintended consequence for me and many other students. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens often in schools. The only way to avoid it is for teachers to take the time to scrutinize the practices and programs they put to use in their classrooms. Are we doing things out of habit or because others are doing them? Or are we doing things because they truly promote learning? A good educator is one who observes and adjusts—constantly and relentlessly.

My four-year-old son recently found a flashcard with the word “flabbergasted” on it. I read the card to him and told him the meaning of the word. He now brings the card everywhere he goes and belly laughs whenever he shows it to someone. Last night he slept with it under his pillow.

There’s something deeply delightful about learning a new vocabulary word.

Why are video games addicting? Neuroscience answers it with complicated data on neuron pathways and dopamine. Ask a child, and his answer will be much simpler: Because they’re fun!

“While we may ultimately teach students enough test-taking strategies to eke out a passing score and earn that high school diploma, we are missing a crucial opportunity to show our students that they, too, can be real readers.”

As a mother of three young children who are drawn to the iPad like moths to a flame, it’s a little hard for me to write a blog post about the upside of screen time. Mostly I see the iPad as a frequent source of conflict in my house. And yet, I’m well aware that there is an upside to this technology.

Make Your Student a STAR!

Read Naturally Star of the Month​Share your student’s success story—nominate him or her for our Star of the Month award. Win a Barnes & Noble gift card for the student and a Read Naturally gift certificate for your class!

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