Reading as a part-time job

One mom found an interesting way to get her daughter reading.

She paid her.

I think that’s really interesting.

Now, as this mom told us about what she’d done, she cringed a little—she knew full well that bribery is not the best way to hook a kid on reading. She knew it was a short-term solution… a Hail Mary pass, if you will, when you’re really desperate.

But the intriguing thing is, it worked. Her daughter started reading. (I’m not sure if she’s still being paid to read or if she’s now reading on her own—I’ll find out and update you.)
Update: Yep, she’s become a reader! The mom said she originally paid her daughter $20 once to read a specific book. That incentive got her over the hump; the girl got through that book and carried on, reading the rest of the books in that series… and now she reads for her own enjoyment.

Another mom said that her kids are always clamouring for books when they visit a bookstore. Her solution? The kids buy the books out of their allowance, but she reimburses them for the book once they’ve read it.

Now, obviously she’s in a pretty positive situation; her kids already love books. But her idea about reimbursing them ensures that the books actually get read, rather than just sit on a shelf.

I’d like to know what you think about paying kids to read. Could it be a positive way to get kids into reading, when combined with other more sustainable activities—like reading to your child, letting them see you reading, and generally reinforcing the value of reading?

Or is bribery just out of the question, even if you’re super desperate? Should we take it out the equation altogether?

And lastly, if we say that paying a child to read might be OK… how much are we talkin’ about, here?


  1. Steven Green

    'Incentive' is often an effective way to guide behavior. Like with a dog who receives a treat the first 25 times when learning a new trick, eventually you can replace the treat with praise and the dog will continue to perform the trick.

    We feel guilty about offering incentive but kids are more influenced by behavioral tactics (do this and I'll do that) more often than an intellectual approach (…you should read because it's good for your future language skills).

    If it works, why not try it. Like everything, some tactics work well for some kids and not for others.

  2. Michelle Skamene

    I am a mom of 3 from Montreal, Canada, and my 2 older boys (ages 9 and 10) were fairly reluctant readers. I love hearing about reading 'incentives', because that's exactly what I did with them!!! In fact, over the past year I have been working on just that…

    I have created a website called Reading Rewards, which is a really fun (and free!) online program whereby kids earn various rewards and privileges by reading. Parents can set up their own rewards for their kids as well (ie: money, new books, anything!). By logging their reading time (and information about their books), kids earn 'RR Miles' they can redeem on the site.

    Children also connect to their friends so they can share about their books, and more, in a fun, safe, online community. This has really gotten my kids (and their friends!) reading more, and we have found that now, they read for the sheer pleasure of it, having gotten over that first hurdle. Yay!!!

    I think that whatever incentive you use, as long as the end result is developing a love of reading in your child, it's ok…

    Our community is growing daily, and we are really excited. We have also recently launched a ‘Read for Haiti’ campaign where our users are logging reading time and collecting money for the victims of the devastating earthquake. The kids are really enjoying ‘reading for a cause’!

    Anybody is more than welcome to join at http://www.reading-rewards.com. Happy Reading!!!

  3. That's great, Michelle!
    Your site looks amazing. (And it's free?!)
    I'll write a post about it to make sure everyone's in the loop.

  4. Michelle Skamene

    Joyce, I'm so glad you think it's a good idea! Yes, the site is completely free for kids to register and use. I have developed some teacher tools (whereby a teacher can set up a group for his/her class and set up reading targets, class incentives, etc), which I may, at some point, charge a fee for. But always free for kids! And at the moment, free for teachers, too… 🙂

  5. Ian @ Tidy Books

    Very interesting. Thanks for leading me here.

    As you say on your other post, it is about balance, and each different situation.

    I have used bribery for other things, and I am not ruling it out for reading.

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