April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stephen Krashen on ‘Bribes’ for Read-Alouds and Librarians on Speed Dating for Books | SLJ Feedback

Rewards for book reading


In School Library Journal‘s January 2014 print issue, Suffolk Cooperative Library System’s youth services coordinator Lisa G. Kropp wrote the article “Vivacious Vocabulary” about how in the interest of building students into critical thinkers and strong readers, libraries are embracing the “1,000 Books Before” program that encourages parents to read 1,000 books to their kids before kindergarten

One SLJ reader, Stephen Krashen, language expert and professor emeritus at University of California, responds to Kropp’s article in an email:


Read alouds are very pleasant for both parents and children. The vast majority of children say they enjoy being read aloud to: Ninety-seven percent in the study Walker and Kuerbitz (1979), 95 percent in Mason and Blanton (1971), and many parents agree. Eighty-nine percent of mothers interviewed in Newson and Newson (cited in Wells, 1985) said their children liked to be read to.

However, giving certificates, getting one’s picture in the local newspaper, and other incentives could send the message that reading and hearing stories is not pleasant and that nobody would do it without a bribe. This could reduce the amount of reading aloud when the rewards are withdrawn (for research, see Kohn, 1999).

But, I agree with the article’s author Lisa Kropp in that we need to encourage reading aloud. The first step is to make sure that families have books. The second is to make sure that parents, and other caretakers, understand the benefits of read alouds.

Stephen Krashen professor emeritus,
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA

Speed dating for bibliophiles

Speed dating isn’t just for singles anymore—it’s something for book lovers, too. Teacher–librarian Susie Lackey explored in SLJTeen’sGet on Board the Book Speed Dating Train” (March 2013) an innovative new way for readers to discover new titles through a game that allows them four minutes of browsing with each book. Fellow librarians were impressed—and even weighed in with their own variations in the comments on SLJ online. Middle school librarian Michele Puelo (Fredericksburg, VA) says, “One thing I do differently is to select a specific passage for students to read, and mark it with Post-It arrows. Students are amazed that they can skip to the middle of a book to ‘evaluate’ it.’” She adds, “I do not use a timer, as my passages are of varying lengths, and my readers are of varying levels. Students are ‘supposed’ to move to a new book when they finish rating a book, but frequently they stay put and the books move as they are recommended from one student to another.” Carla Shinn, a high school media coordinator (Ashboro, NC) says, “At my school, we call it “Speed Booking,” and we offer it anytime to all English classes, tailored to suit each one’s needs.”

Starting a difficult conversation

Library Journal Mover and Shaker Karen Jensen discussed her work using titles such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (1999) and Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty (both Farrar, 2012) as a springboard for raising awareness of sexual violence among teens (“Launching a Dialogue About Sexual Violence in YA Lit—and Real Life”). “They are tools we can use to help change a culture by actively engaging in dialogue with teens and the adults—parents, teachers, and leaders.”

Virginia middle school librarian Alicia Blowers agrees with the literary approach, adding, “Another YA fiction title that deals specifically with dating violence and portrays a realistic depiction of a girl stuck in the cycle of violence is Elise Moser’s Lily and Taylor (Groundwood, 2013).

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Karen Letteriello says:

    The incentive programs are also a way to get the parents/family into the library. Often the reader is so excited they encourage the visit. Once repeatedly at the library we have witnessed the continued use and friendship.