Getting Boys to Read: A Global Challenge
Getting boys to read is apparently a challenge all over the globe. Take this story from Wellington, New Zealand: Rongotai college has initiated a controversial reading program. Every time a boy can prove that they have read two books, they are rewarded with a nice, sugary, cold can of coca-cola. If they read five books, they get a voucher to Subway. Ten books? A movie voucher! Twenty books… a mobile phone voucher. The top three students get a clothing voucher and the top two receive a school blazer.
United States Good-Grades Incentive Programs
Similar programs are taking place in the United States. Many cities, including Baltimore and New York City, pay their students for good grades! An Exxon/Mobile program, which is being instigated in several states, pays students $100 for EACH AP exam they pass.
These incentives seem to be working. Book borrowing has nearly doubled in the libraries of Wellington, New Zealand. More students are registering to take AP classes in Dallas, where the Exxon/Mobile program is in effect. Other schools that offer rewards for academic achievement see college applications on the rise and classroom performance improving.
Bribing Kids to Study: A Good Idea?
There are a lot of people skeptical, however, of these programs, which essentially bribe kids into actively participating in reading or studying.
USA Today reported that Bob Schaeffer of the NationalCenter for Fair & Open Testing, a watchdog group, is incredulous about these types of programs: "Bribing kids for higher test scores — or paying teachers bounties for their students’ work — is similar to giving them steroids. Short-term performance might improve but the long-term effects can be very damaging."
Joel Klein, chancellor of schools in NYC, defended programs in his schools that reward good grades with cash (and pizza!) in the NY Daily News. He states that “The Education Department is "trying to get them into the learning and then to teach people to love learning. But if you’re not motivated to learn, it’s very hard to love learning.”
Parents have been bribing kids for centuries: it’s what we call “allowance.” Some parents even shell out cash to get their kids to read. Is it a good, even necessary way to foster a love of books? Or is it just a way to cultivate materialism and greed in our students?
What do you think?