Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reading Incentive Programs

A free personal pizza…a tub of Whole Foods ice cream…a box of doughnuts…a backpack—if I offered all these items to you for free, you would probably assume that I was kidding. But these are just a few example items that grade-school kids can get by…community service? Charitable donations? Paying money? Nope. Reading.

Many libraries, including my own local Redmond Regional library, offer reading incentive programs, often funded by philanthropic arms of companies such as Pizza Hut. You get a sheet on which “reading coaches”—parents, teachers, or guardians—sign their initials and the date to prove that you have read at least 20 minutes.There’s nothing wrong with the libraries that set up the reading incentive programs; understandably, the libraries want to get more people (especially the new generation) to read. What makes me angry is that kids do need incentives to read. The Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) website listed a few common complaints kids have about reading: “It's boring[…] I don't have the time[…] It's too hard […] It's not important […] It's no fun.” When kids complain about the food on their plates, we tell them that there are starving children in Africa. How are books different? Many people across the world do not have the chance to access reading material. We need to impress upon kids that the ability to read, and the presence of books, is a privilege and a great opportunity for them to learn.

One of the reasons kids may not embrace reading as much any more is that they have many other forms of recreation to distract them, from texting on cell phones to video games and sporting events. However, a big part of life is prioritizing. We need to compare the value of, say, Kung Fu Chaos, an ultra-violent “brawler game” ( to The Grapes of Wrath, an American classic that eloquently depicts the struggles of Depression-era people. Which one do you think sounds better?


  1. Anonymous10:08 PM

    Adora, I enjoy reading your posts but I have to say that I don't necessarily agree with you here. I think that reading incentive programs have more purpose than just getting kids to read; in my area, reading incentive programs provide a way for the community to unite over a common cause. However, I do agree that today's kids have lots of distractions, and that it's not great that we have to chide and scold and force them to read.

  2. rocobley12:41 AM

    Surely the way forward is to make reading *enjoyable* not force or scold them? I thought that was what Adora was trying to do.

  3. Rocobley, I don't see anything wrong with getting kids to read; I am just disappointed in the general attitude of kids toward reading.


  4. It's usually the opposite with me. Mt mom tries to get me to stop reading.

  5. Hi Adora!
    I'm Renata from Argentina. I saw your page on a friend's blog and I decided to come and check i tout. I just wanted to tell yu that I really like your blog and I enjoy reading your posts.
    I think your writting style is great and I agree with you that children these days aren't reading much. Some of my friends are always complainig when we have to read one short book for school while I love reading and I complan because I have to search to find more nice books to read!
    I love readin because it takes you to another place and time and a whole new world.
    Anyway, keep like this and I'm sure I'll keep on coming to reaad your posts!

  6. Anonymous4:39 PM

    I can't say I fully agree either. While I think literacy is important and it's important for kids to learn to read and READ (which is the whole point of learning, in the end), you can't force them. And maybe it's just not something people would like to do for fun, the same way a lot of people don't like to do math for fun, but know how.

    I think it's just important that the world knows how. It's not absolutely crucial that people read for fun, or read more...for example, I know lots of people who definitely know how to read, but just don't have time to read for fun, or aren't interested in reading for fun. And for me, that's perfectly okay. They aren't interested -- and sure, all right, that's understandable. You can't force someone like that to read all the time.

    You wouldn't force someone to study science textbooks for fun, would you? As long as you know how to study, you're fine. You don't HAVE to study it a lot, or for fun.

    And in your question at the end of your post, I'm sure that at least 70% of America would say the Xbox game. The truth is, about 70% would say yes to reading if the novel you provided was TWILIGHT. Sorry to break that to you, but American classics aren't the most popular books lately.

  7. Hello Adora!
    That is almost sad that libraries have to use "Reading incentive programs" to make kids read. I couldn't imagine a world without reading. What would I do with all the spare time?

  8. Productivity bonuses have been around for a long time – the concept dates back to the days when manual laborers who were paid by the hour would earn extra money for producing extra within that time.