25 Cents For My Thoughts – I get a quarter for each book I read and blog about. (this child’s 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 Rewards, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993/1999, by Alfie Kohn)