25 Cents For My Thoughts: An online reading incentive program

This URL was forwarded to us all recently by a fellow teacher with the enigmatic comment “Food for thought…” 
My first thought was that this might be a snarky parody of Alfie Kohn by someone having a laugh. To find out more I visited the website and it appears to be legit. (There is no “Ha ha, just kidding!” text at the bottom of the page.)
My second thought was that maybe this example was somehow the exception that proves the rule. Many teachers here at our school have read and discussed Kohn’s ideas about learning in general and reward systems in particular. Does this blog contradict or support Kohn’s assertion that reading incentive programs ultimately discourage independent pleasure reading (which is the goal, right?) and push children towards thinner, easier-to-finish books that they skim and forget rather than truly reading, understanding, and enjoying.?
This child, who is paid to read and blog, has thus far produced entries that vary in length from several sentences to short utterances. For example “this iz a Good book abot money (sic)” is the entire entry for a book with the title Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Does this demonstrate enjoyment of reading or comprehension of the story beyond what is already apparent in the title? Thus far the Skinnerian behavior-reward scheme seems to have produced some cute photos and some amusing blurbs, but the jury is still out on the long-term effects for this little boy.
A Closer Look at Reading Incentive Programs (Excerpts from Punished by RewardsBoston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993/1999, by Alfie Kohn)

25 Cents For My Thoughts – I get a quarter for each book I read and blog about. (this child’s online reading incentive program)


  1. My daughter and I started a blog together two summers ago with the dual purposes of sharing updates and photos with family/friends, and getting her to feel more comfortable with writing. I thought it was a brilliant idea for getting her to write – as it turns out, writing on a computer is just about as painful for her as writing on paper, but it was definitely worth a shot, and we still update it from time to time. (We have a deal that we take turns. I write an entry. She writes an entry. etc.) As a parent, if your child is struggling with something, you will try ANYTHING to get them to be more successful at it. Including monetary incentives!

    That boy looks pretty young to be writing detailed book summaries. And it seems like the entries got a little better after someone else started typing them for him. Maybe the parents’ goal was writing more than reading? Who knows. (I’m a little surprised that it is a public blog and not one that is password protected for just family members, but maybe that’s because it’s just the approach we took.)

    Liked by 1 person

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