9 Restaurants That Offer Reading Incentive Programs
I was introduced to the fun of reading incentive programs as an elementary school kid back in the mid-1970’s. No, it wasn’t Pizza Hut’s amazing “Book It” program. It was a teacher-made system with a point chart on her blackboard. Once our 20-minutes-per-night quota had been reached for the month…we got cupcakes… also teacher-made! (To be honest, I NEVER needed an incentive to read… but hey… cupcakes, right?)
Pizza Hut’s “Book It” Program
My introduction to Pizza Hut’s “Book It” reading incentive program came along in the late-1980s when I was teaching first grade. My students loved it… and most of them brought back the little calendar reading logs each month to exchange for their very own personal pan pizza coupons! (As a young, and often broke, teacher back then… I kinda wished I could read for pizza, too! But I digress…)
I’ve been thankful for “Book It” throughout my long teaching career, and I’ve watched it grow from a mailbox program with a pad of paper calendars to today’s version which features a digital dashboard, well-known author highlights, and tons of extra activities. Teachers are invited to enroll students in Pre-K through 6th grade. (Public and private schools and homeschooling families are included as well.) For “Book It,” the teacher (or librarian) sets the goals based on the students’ reading abilities — reading a set number of minutes, pages, or books will all work! Students who are not independently reading yet can also participate by listening to parent/sibling read-alouds. I always encourage my older students to read to the younger ones — so EVERYONE can go out to eat! I have also had families with several children who shared the reading of a longer chapter book as a means of bedtime bonding. More information about the “Book It” program can be found by accessing my Pinterest board above, or by clicking the link below.
Other Restaurants That Offer Reading Incentive Programs
I wanted to write this blog post because my community has recently added several NEW restaurants with programs that celebrate the importance of reading! This made me curious to know if there are other similar reading incentive programs out there as well. So, I went on a search!
Although there have been many more restaurants with reading incentive programs in the past (Chipotle, Chik-fil-A, and Raising Caine’s to name a few) I couldn’t find current information that they are still functional at this time, so I did not include them.
In the list of nine that follows, I was able to find at least a little online evidence that each of these programs are current as of October 2023 — or they are expected to be renewed for 2024. Of course, many restaurants are privately owned. It’s going to be important to contact the management of the restaurant in your community to find out if they are participating! (I think it’s always worth a polite inquiry, if it helps to motivate our young readers! Don’t you?) Plus, I think it’s very important to support local restaurants that make an effort to support our schools — so let’s get the word out to parents!
HINT: Hover over the restaurant name to activate the link.
Applebee’s – They have two programs, and both are designed for grade school kids. “A is for Applebee’s” is a reward card program that can be used throughout year. Teachers, or librarians, determine their own criteria to motivate positive behavior — in our case READING, of course! Applebee’s also has a more reading-specific program for the summertime called “Books are a Blast!” (I will be doing a separate blog post in the future about summer programming.)
Braum’s Ice Cream & Dairy Store – This program is called “Book Buddy,” and it is for children in the 1st- 5th grades. (The mascot is a VERY cute cow!) It begins in October of each year, and the student goal is to read six books — in order to earn six ice cream treats!
Chuck E. Cheese – This fun birthday party spot has a reward program that is actually supervised by the PARENTS, so you will just be the one getting the news out to them. At this link, parents will find an assortment of two-week logs for practicing a variety of good behaviors, including spending time reading at home, daily tooth brushing, sports and/or instrument practice, and so on. The reward in this case is also a bit different because it involves 10 “Play Points” to use when visiting the arcade, rather than a food item.
Insomnia Cookies – This late-night cookie spot just opened in June 2023 for our community. (It’s right next to a college campus!) From my search, I learned that many Insomnia locations reward graduates for a job well done — BUT each grad must visit the store in cap and gown to qualify! (Okay… they can also bring written proof of graduation, but that’s not nearly as much fun!) I think this incentive program would be great for culminating a “Seniors Only” book club. If they meet your criteria… for the last meeting… you could have everyone plan to meet at the Insomnia Cookies store! (The reward is a FREE 6-pack of cookies WITH a $5.00 purchase.)
Old Spaghetti Factory – This program is called “Rewards for Reading”, or “Pages for Pasta!” Each child who reads five books will earn a kid’s meal. All of the enrollment information can be found at the link.
Panda Express – This program is called “Read with Me.” Enrollment is online and there are an assortment of digital resources there as well — including a Panda Cub Club. Each student is asked to read 5 books in order to earn a kid’s meal. There is also an opportunity to win a collective goal for supporting each other as a class.
Pizza Hut — This is the “Book It” program. Each teacher sets his or her own monthly goals and students earn a one-topping, personal pan pizza. The online site has many extra resources including author information and educational activities. When I ran “Book It” for my entire school, I set grade level goals.
Portillo’s – This restaurant puts on a fun twist into their reading reward program! Rather than earning a kid’s MEAL… successful readers will earn a yummy slice of Portillo’s famous chocolate cake for DESSERT!
Texas Roadhouse – You will have to reach out to your community’s restaurant to find out if they have a “Partners in Education” program started. (I could not find many details on the franchise’s main website, but I learned a lot from our local Texas Roadhouse website and from their Facebook page.) Be aware that there may be several different programs available. Ours has a reward program that offers a kid’s meal for perfect attendance and a separate program for reading books to earn a kid’s meal. Other Texas Roadhouse locations may also provide bookmarks or backpacks, a student or teacher of the month program, and even fundraising opprtunities for your school.
Okay! That’s my current list, as of October 2023! If you know of other reading incentive programs that restaurants are currently running, please send me a link, so I can add their information here and also to my Pinterest board, called “Restaurant Reading Incentive Programs.”