Fort Wayne (WANE) - Pizza Hut's Book It! Program provides incentive for students to read. But a children's advocacy group is criticizing the program, claiming it makes kids hungry for pizza, not books. Educators and Pizza Hut disagree, saying the program is just one more tool to help improve literacy.
Dr. Susan Linn, a spokesperson for The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says Book It! doesn't give kids an appetite for reading. "There is a national concern about reading. There has been for a very long time, so Pizza Hut decided to create a program to help kids read. And in fact what the program does is market Pizza Hut every day the kids are in school. So you keep promising kids rewards for reading, there are a couple of messages in that. One of them is an inherent message that kids don't want to read and that reading is boring. When the reward ends, kids tend to stop doing whatever that behavior is."
The reading program is in many elementary schools in our area, and many educators maintain Book It! does give students a taste for books. "The Book It! Program really encourages reading in our elementary school students and reading is the most important foundation of learning. Anything that encourages reading we support," says FWCS Director of Public Affairs Melanie Hall.
Pizza Hut issued this statement: "The Book It! Program is designed to help children develop a love of book and reading and accomplishing goals. Teachers and parents tell us that the rewards of praise, recognition and pizza are motivating. A certificate for a personal pan pizza is only awarded once a month, and only then if the student has achieved the reading goals set by his or her teacher. We're proud of the success of the Book It! Program, which has encouraged million of students to develop a lifelong passion for learning."
The company says it also received hundreds of comments from Book It! alums supporting the program. An e-mail to Pizza Hut reads, "I am 26 and I think I was one of the first sessions of students to take part in the Book It! program years ago. I would just like to say thank you for the program that your company built. With the help of my parents, you guys helped me to build a love for books."
The Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood says Pizza Hut could sponsor other programs that don't promote products, like purchasing books. A Pizza Hut representative told NewsChannel 15 over the phone that the company does do that in addition to Book It!.
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Personally I think this is completely ridiculous. I LOVED Book-It! I think any program that gets kids to read is a fantastic idea, even if it does have some commercial value. Since when is giving rewards to a well-deserving child a bad thing?