During the school year, I have a reading incentive program I call “Reading for Dollars.” Students keep a monthly reading calendar and when they turn it in they are paid one “Big Buck” for every 100 minutes they have read. These can then be spent at Mrs. Connell’s Big Buck Store, which opens once a month. The cost of items for sale range from one dollar to $30 and include dollar-store-type merchandise such as candy, stuffed animals, books, and coupons I have made for a free book from the book order or lunch with the teacher. Some save their money to buy the big-ticket items while others spend everything they have each month. Nearly every student participates, and those who don’t the first month begin to read after the first “store,” when they see what their classmates have purchased. Each year there are always parents who tell me what a big difference the Big Bucks have made in motivating their child to read at home.
To keep students reading all summer, I send home three reading calendars at the end of the year for June, July, and August, along with a partial list of items that will be available in their final Big Bucks Store in the fall. The first week of school I pay my former students for the minutes they accumulated over the summer and then they go “shopping.” There are always a few students who don’t participate, but the overwhelming majority absolutely loves spending every last bit of their hard-earned summer money.