Yesterday, I went shopping and found myself at a Pizza Hut Express. Those breadsticks were calling my name. While I sat at one of those tables, eating my breadsticks, a woman came in with her two little girls. That little family reminded me of those days I spent at Nativity, trying to read enough books to get my Book It! certificate and a free pan pizza at my local Pizza Hut. Back then, I hated reading. The books for my reading level were so boring and the only reason I could be found with a book in my hand was because of that program.
For those that don’t know about Book It!, it is a reading program created by an executive from Pizza Hut after his son struggled with reading. The idea of the program was to award reading with pizza. There were buttons and stickers. It was always fun to get my certificate.
The first time I remember getting a free pizza was when I was in the 3rd grade. That night, my school’s choir sang at a mass with the Bishop for the Brooklyn-Queens Diocese and afterwards my parents took me over to the Pizza Hut on Atlantic Avenue (the one by Pathmark). It was great because we left my brother at home and that night was all about me. I hadn’t had one of those since before my brother was born and it made me feel special.
I’m torn about the program’s efficacy, though. The fact that it placed an extrinsic award of reading bothers me. If you’ve studied Human Motivation before, you know that extrinsic rewards are frowned upon because when you remove the reward the behavior will cease and there have even been studies that show extrinsic rewards reduce the intrinsic effects (i.e. a kid who liked to read before the Book It! program would no longer feel the same way when reading after becoming involved in the program because the extrinsic value placed on it has taken over). We all talk about the Good Book Feeling and if those studies were right, kids in the Book It! program did not feel that because the reward wasn’t the pleasure of reading, but in getting pizza. As for myself, I hated reading throughout elementary school and the once school was out for the summer, I was unlikely to read anything unless I had to write a book report on it. The program only increased my reading during the school year. Obviously, I am now a reader, but that didn’t happen until I was halfway through high school and no longer a part of the Book It! program.
I was under the impression that Book It! no longer exists, but when I googled it earlier, I found out that it is still going strong, 31 years after it first started in 1984. According to their search function, my former school no longer takes part in the program.