We were fascinated to read about three initiatives, both large- and small-scale, underway in America at the moment.
The Read and Ride program encourages kids to sit on exercise bikes while reading at school.
The program is currently running in more than 30 schools and has garnered media coverage around the US, and even on Radio New Zealand.
At Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, there is one entire classroom filled with bikes (second-hand, mostly donated) that students use at various times during the day. Some other classrooms have a single bike in a corner so kids who can’t sit still don’t have to, and time on the bike can be offered as a ‘reward’ for behaviour and achievement.
What are the benefits? According to Fast Company, at Ward Elementary :
students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores—only 41% proficiency.
Free book vending machines
Jet Blue Airlines recently placed free book vending machines in a neighbourhood where very few kids have books in their homes.
This trial initiative was run in the Anacostia neighbourhood of Washington DC where in many cases families don’t have the resources to buy books, and there are also very few book retailers (a survey showed that there was one age-appropriate book for sale for every 830 children in the area).
Vending machines were placed in a church, a supermarket and a Salvation Army branch. A selection of 12 books was rotated through the machines every two weeks, offering up to 42 different titles through the summer. Children selected their age and a topic and were dispensed a book. There was no limit to how many times they could access a book. The initiative was timed for the American Summer months when kids’ reading participation tends to drop while they are on school holidays.
A local grandmother, Margaret Charles, told wtop.com that the program was particularly special because it gave kids the opportunity of not just reading but owning a book:
“They get to write their names in them, keep them and start a collection.”
Icema Gibbs, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for JetBlue Airways, said:
“In addition to helping families start a library, we hope it shows retailers that
there’s demand for access to age appropriate reading material in the community.” (Kojo Nnamdi Show Blog)
Read for a haircut
On a more local level, a barber in Dubuque, Idaho, has been offering free back-to-school haircuts to kids as long as they’re reading. The boys have to read out loud to him from a book while he cuts their hair
Courtney Holmes didn’t read much as a child himself: he told The Independent, “The only book I read as a child was the Bible, and the books we had at school. I was not a kid that got read to at an early age,” but he wants things to be different for his own kids and others.
A local youth program provided books, and Mr Holmes let the children pick what book they wanted to read, helped them with difficult words and talked to them about the book afterwards.
He is now considering turning this into a monthly event.
What do you think of these initiatives? Would these ideas translate to Australia? Have you been involved in anything similar? Please comment below.
(image sourced from Read and Ride, copyright Jay Sinclair)