I rarely notice the cartoons that my grandkids are watching on TV. But this morning, one really grabbed my attention as four-year old Brenna was watching Arthur in school with his friends. Buster (I think that’s the rabbit’s name) was telling the teacher, “You mean there’s no test for this book? So I’ll get no points for reading it? But… but… I really enjoyed it.” The teacher confirmed that it was true. Buster would get no points because this particular book wasn’t on the list of choices. The teacher named the program that Arthur’s school was using — a made-up name. They didn’t fool me; this show was poking fun at, and showing the flaws of, the Accelerated Reader Program. I listened harder.
All the other kids tried to convince Buster that he should only read books on the list and then take the test for points because then you could turn your points in for prizes. (Another dig at those silly incentive programs that try to bribe kids to read rather than encourage the intrinsic value of reading.) Buster stood his ground. When the students went to “Point-Redemption Day” all the kids were complaining about their cheap-o prizes. “I read 786 points worth and this is all I got?” The prizes were equal to turning in your tickets at Chuck E. Cheese’s (you’ve been there, right? 1,000 tickets for a plastic whistle.) Arthur asked Buster what his prize was. Buster only had 38 points, so he got a straw. He told Arthur that that was OK with him because he had read so many books that were so interesting and exciting to him.
The cartoon show was followed by a short, 5-minute clip of real kids (2nd or 3rd graders) talking about how they choose books. They discussed the kinds of books they loved to read, recommended some to friends, and talked about whether they mostly picked humorous books or adventure/action books, and so on. Several of the kids mentioned how important it was to choose books you were interested in.
What can I say? Hats off to the Arthur show and whoever wrote this episode. What a great message for kids! Maybe I should start watching more cartoons!