Get paid to read?

March 18, 2019

Libraries in America have begun the implementation of new reading incentive programs so as to motivate younger kids to get into the habit of reading. This new program gives readers $2 for every book that they read. There are variations of this system of course, like instead of money they give them sweets instead, but the general idea is still the same. There has been much debate on whether or not this incentive cultivates a habit and love of reading, as some would argue that it encourages kids to focus on the financial reward instead.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Those that support the financial incentive see it as a tool to jumpstart the kids’ love for reading. As they read more and more, the sentiment is that the incentive would be less and less important to them, thereby forming a wholly independent habit for reading. While this is true for some kids, some libraries have shown that while there are most definitely more books being read by kids after the incentive was implemented, the books that they read were shorter on average than what it was previously. Young as they were, the kids learnt to “game” the system into earning more money for them and reading short or “dumb” books so as to increase their own efficiency. Although the incentive was exploited, it did still bring about an increased level of reading amongst the children, achieving its overarching goal.

On the other hand, those that did not support rewarding the kids for reading argued that a passion for reading should be kept as the core requirement for getting kids to read more, and that the implementation of this reward for reading would only corrupt that passion, as the children would be blinded by the money. However, what they didn’t take into account was that children who were already avid readers spread their contagious joy of reading further as they talked about their books with their friends, which led to other kids starting to pick up the habit as well after hearing about the money that could be made. Books that they had read became a common topic of conversation and some would even exchange books and recommend others to specific series, forming a positive feedback loop that resulted in kids reading more than what was expected.

In my opinion, I believe that money can be used to cultivate the habit and passion of reading as this reward can construct a routine for them over time, forming a love for reading as it becomes part of their daily lives, to the point that the money that was awarded becomes irrelevant to them, and it can then be gradually removed from them as they grow older, while still ensuring that their habit for reading remains intact. This concept of reward for reading is also a good system to slowly nurture the way society works as they are rewarded for doing things that their boss(which in this case are their parents or teachers) want them to do, thereby preparing them for the future by giving them a taste of what working life will be like. If there was a way that this reading reward system could be implemented that would prevent children “gaming” the system and instead ensure that these activities were expanding their vocabularies and enhancing their command of the language, I would support the use of this system as it is a way to increase the number of readers and reward avid readers for engaging in good behaviours. This system could possibly even be adapted for other healthy lifestyle choices such as dieting and exercise.


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