Punishment for reading failure is never justified! Period!
When students fall behind, some teachers put pressure on parents to do more work at home to raise their reading scores even though they are not trained to do so. Failure to learn to read well is usually blamed on a weakness in the child rather than on weaknesses in the way learning to read has been handled by others in the child’s life. Parents may blame the child for not trying and cut back on privileges or drill them until they hate reading. This is a huge mistake.
Failure can set a self-fulfilling prophecy in motion. Children feel helpless and depend on someone else to ‘rescue’ them. They begin to prefer easier tasks and are less interested in reading. Learning to read requires risk taking and belief in the possibility of success. Not only that, but failure leads to an expectation of future failure.
Promising rewards for reading can be especially damaging. As much as children say they hate reading – it isn’t true. They hate themselves for their failure. They long to read the books their friends are talking about. I’ve heard parents even say their child can’t read because they’re stubborn or aren’t trying hard enough. What a way to dig a deeper ditch of despair!
Offering rewards for something students are confused about and unable to do is the most damaging. It totally puts the blame for failure on the student and makes reading even more difficult to achieve. Reading for the knowledge and pleasure it brings to ones life, not for pizza and praise, is what is valuable. Reading is its own reward!
Pressure to perform, even as young as four and five years old, creates depression and fear in those for whom it is impossible. Many are not mature enough, and do not have the attention span for academic work. If they experience failure early on, they may be unable to overcome the fear of failure that is embedded in their sub-conscious when they have achieved the maturity. Every grade has students that differ by one year in age. It is insane to expect them all to accomplish the same tasks at the same time.
Teaching children to read needs to be examined and re-focused.