Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt

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Do you keep a journal - or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I'll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation - just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you'll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you'll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.
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I'm not against rewarding kids for reading.

My kindergarteners earned Book It! coupons from Pizza Hut's National Reading Incentive Program for every 10 books they read, and my elementary-aged kids earned Book It! Coupons when they met similar goals in the school-sponsored Accelerated Reader program. During the summers of elementary school, we celebrated at home: specialty ice cream and slushie treats or an outing to a special park or bookstore in a nearby community for a specific number of minutes or books read.

Curling up on the couch or burrowing under a pile of pillows every day after lunch became a normal part of my kids' summer schedule, and after a few years, rewards were no longer needed as incentives. My kids saw that characters had messages to share and that an intriguing storyline took them to new places and time periods. Instead of reading to earn a reward, they read because they were curious about the world around them.

Last summer, my 13-year-old daughter read the 1943 classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith and was shocked by what she learned. Until that time, her views of the early 1900s were based on the stories of wealthy Samantha Parkington from the American Girls series. She had little knowledge of the poverty that existed in the New York City tenements until she met Smith's Francie Nolan. Our discussions continued into the school year when she looked to the early 1900s for a history project. After Smith, she met photographers Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. Their photos of tenement life led her to a book about the Triangle Factory Fire and then to the issue of child labor and the work of the National Child Labor Committee.

You may not find rewards to be an effective strategy for increasing your child's interest in reading--and there are several studies that have explored its relationship with the overjustification effect (when external incentives decrease a person's intrinsic motivation to perform a task)--but I'm sure you'll find this report from James Kim, associate professor of education at Harvard University and author of "How to Make Summer Reading Effective," interesting. His research shows that summer reading programs work best when adults are involved and suggests:

Access to books.

Books that match reader's ability, level, and interests.
Use the five-finger rule. Ask your child to read 100 words from a book and teach the child to raise one finger
for each word that is too difficult to figure out. If the child has more than five fingers up, the book is probably too hard.

Comprehension as monitored and guided by an adult.
Ask questions about the story and allow the child to ask questions. Summarize or ask the child to summarize. Reread hard-to-understand passages.

Journal Entry: Describe a time YOU were rewarded for completing a project. How did the reward make you feel about the project? Did it encourage you to do more?


Karna ConverseĀ is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She’s serving as Literary Mama‘s Editor-in-Chief from her home in Storm Lake, Iowa. She and her husband are parents to three young adults.

 


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