How many of you did Book-It as a child? I did, and I'm sure many of you did too. Simple concept, read some books, collect little stickers for your button and then eventually get a coupon for a free personal pan pizza. Marvelous. Or not?
Critics Denounce Pizza Hut Reading Program
The criticims make sense at first, but let's break it down.
It is a corporate program and should schools be supporting a corporation? Well... In an ideal world, no, but that isn't the world we live in. Almost every school I know hosts a scholastic book fair and/or passes out those brochures for book orders. It happened when I was a kid, and it still happens. (Often parents bring those in and try to get the books through us and we don't have them for a variety of reasons). It makes money for the school and gets kids a chance to order books, but it also supports one specific corporation and publisher. Schools have partnered with corporations and accepted private support in a variety of ways throughout the year. This is not signifigantly different.
It encourages childhood obesity. Yes childhood obesity is a national epidemic. I'm not arguing that, no one is. The article specifically mentions schools getting rid of soda machines. Soda machines provide daily access to sugary pop. As I recall, you can get two pizzas at most per year. Two little pizzas a year do not make you obese. Nor are parents forced into going to pizza hut. One time, we traded in our coupons to make pizzas with dad. (Dad makes the most marvelous pizzas, he worked as a pizza chef in college). That was a ton of fun. Parents can offer there children an alternative award if they don't want to go to pizza hut.
When children read for a prize, it doesn't make them readers. Basically this is the idea that kids are going to choose the quickest book and just do the minimum they need to get through the program. Perhaps. Some kids will. And the ones who are already good readers don't need this program. But then there are the other kids, the in between ones. Those kids will do it because they want the pizza, and in the process might find that one book, the first book they ever liked to read, the first book they ever read cover to cover. Granted they might find it in a school based awards program, but you never know. Rewards motivate kids, and some kids need that motivation to discover that they might actually like reading. It certainly is better than AR type programs. I would rather reward the children for doing any reading at all than force them into one level. (But you really don't want me to get started on AR. If you don't know about it, thank your lucky stars and move on.)
And I work in a library where we solicit coupons for freebies from businesses to give away as prizes. Schools and libraries don't have enough money for incentives and I'm all about accepting the partnership and rewards from corporations. At the PLA Spring Symposium I was just at, a librarian (perhaps one of the California State Librarians? I'm not sure) was talking about the presence of Coors as a sponser for an adult literacy program. They had to eventually reject them because too many adult learners have struggled with substance abuse in the past and it sent mixed messages. I understand nixing Coors, nor would I be in favor of letting a cigarette company sponser summer reading. But Pizza Hut? I have no problem with.
I personally would be disappointed and saddened to see this program ended. There are some ALA members (though I do not believe the two are officially affiliated) on the board of this program and I would also be saddened to see the ALA make a rash decision to pull out and condemn this program.
Total side note: the photo on this article must be a stock photo. It shows a marine reading to a bunch of kids and has nothing to do with the specific Book-it program.