The reward *IS* in the reading

The reward *IS* in the reading

2018-11-29T20:50:25+00:00July 28th, 2013|Categories: Reading Incentives|7 Comments

Reading IncentivesA couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a teacher’s blog with a post that expressed considerable concern about the Reading Rewards premise. That reading should be for fun, and not ‘funds’.

I absolutely agree.

I started Reading Rewards a few years ago, when my two boys, then aged 8 and 10, were really reading very little, and spending way too much time on their video games. The initial concept for the reading program was simple. If the boys wanted to be able to play their video games, they could, but had to spend at least an equivalent amount of time reading. That was the deal.

I certainly never planned on ‘rewarding’ their reading forever. But I had 2 reluctant reader boys, and I was willing to try anything.

In my personal experience, I saw amazing results, and these have been echoed time and time again from users of the site.

The point of the rewards, initially, was just to get them started. The more time they spent reading, the better feel they got for the types of books they enjoyed. The better book choices we made (together), the easier it was to get them to spend time reading. And eventually, the RR Miles really stopped mattering, and they were happily picking up books in their ‘down’ time and sitting down to read. Believe me, 4 years later, we CERTAINLY are not doing rewards/RR Miles or any other incentives.

They really HAVE found that the reward is in the reading, and that tagline on our website is no coincidence.

While the incentive portion of Reading Rewards was certainly a key element for me when starting the site, it has grown into so much more. In fact, many teachers/users of our site do not even use the incentive portion!

I really, truly believe, as was demonstrated with my own boys, that finding the right books, and carving out dedicated reading time in busy schedules, is the key to independent reading success. With that in mind, we have slowly developed more and more features on the site that can help kids find books they’ll love. By connecting to friends and classmates, and being able to share what everyone is reading, we think this can really help kids find books they’ll love, and help turn them into avid readers.

So while the key to independent reading is the key to raising reading scores, students should not be raising profits for software companies as well. There are other features on this software that are admirable. The site includes places for reading logs, creating reading wish lists, and peer sharing reviews, but those features could be accomplished on a (free) blog or wiki without the distractions of prizes or rewards.

Our website has always been free. By the way, did you know it is run by a massive team of 2 moms? We certainly aren’t some big software company.

And the other features mentioned above should not be dismissed too easily, since we really believe that the logging of reading and sharing of reviews amongst peers is one of the pillars of independent reading success, with or without the rewards. But if some kids need a little boost, need a little challenge, need a bit of extra recognition in the form of a reading badge, moving up a ‘silly level’, or a ‘Great job on your reading!’ comment, then we are absolutely thrilled to be able to provide that.

Our mission is to get kids reading. Get kids reading for fun. We absolutely agree. If you find, months or years later, that you are still having to promise rewards in exchange for reading time, then something is not working. But if a couple of trips to the Dollar Store, or a family movie night, is what you need to get your child started on the path to reading success, then we hope you will consider it! And if incentives are not your thing, we hope you will explore all the other great features of our site that, we believe, are helping build a community of life-long readers.

If you have any great ideas on how to get kids reading for fun, we would so love to hear from you!

Happy Reading,


About the Author:

Reading Rewards
Reading Rewards is a comprehensive & interactive reading log & reading incentive program that is used worldwide by hundreds of thousands of children, parents, teachers and librarians. Find out more about our reading program.


  1. Chris COx July 28, 2013 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Spot on Michelle. I suspect those who criticize the concept see the word reward, leap to conclusions, don’t test out the site with reluctant readers and so miss out on a great tool for helping children experience the joy of reading for its own sake … something that many have to be cajoled/forced into experiencing. Only then will we hear the words. Miss, you made me like reading:)

    • admin July 28, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Chris, first of all, thank you for continuing to be an RR advocate!! While I do understand that the concept may not work for everybody, there is at least SOME evidence from our user experience that it can help kids get started down the path to loving reading for the sake of reading. And that is all we can hope for, isn’t it? How magical, for you, to have been on the receiving end of such words. The world needs more teachers like you!! Any teachers, for that matter, that help instill a love of reading, no matter how this is accomplished. Cheers! Michelle

  2. Mark September 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    We hired in a company that ran a similar reading programme for the whole school. The whole process involved incentivising kids through rewards: stars on the wall when they had finished a book; a word ladder that measured how many words they had read, where kids could become word millionaires; prizes and certificates when students’ reading age improved to a certain level, etc.

    The impact of this was massive. We’d been trying for years to boost literacy skills and reading for pleasure had never really taken off. Since we began rewarding, the average kid makes 18 months to 2 years reading age progress in a single academic year. This is with secondary students by the way.

    Your comment that if it gets them started then it’s worth it is absolutely spot on. We don’t hand out massive prizes but we have massive benefits for little things. And Ofsted loved it – especially as literacy is now a hugely more significant focus of their inspection framework. Most importantly, we now have a community of readers for pleasure (well, most of them!)

    • admin September 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Mark, thanks for your comment! That is fantastic progress in a single year! Have you continued with the program? I would love to hear more about it! I will try to contact you separately, those results are amazing. Thanks for chiming in!!!

  3. Ann October 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    This is true. As a teacher, I was always adamantly opposed to external rewards for students. Then I had a child and that boy is 9 years old now and sadly, a most reluctant reader. Since he was born, I’ve tried everything to instill a love a reading; to no avail. While surfing Pinterest, I stumbled on to this nifty site and am going forward with this system because the intrinsic thing isn’t happening and time is ticking away for my little guy who needs to get on board with reading. I’m really excited for this program and hope it propels him into a love of reading.
    P.S. One thought is that I really want to pin this great article so that I can easily refer to it from time to time but there is no Pinterest button.

    • admin October 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Ann! Some suggestions for a 9 year old: start by setting up some small (ish) rewards for not too many RR Miles, so it does not seem overwhelming. My kids initially got excited by the thought of ‘big’ rewards for their Miles, but got a little discouraged when they saw how long it would take. In my opinion, small and frequent rewards work best. OF COURSE the key is to get him some great books. At that age, my boys really enjoyed Big Nate, the Geronimo Stilton series, and the Magic Treehouse series. Thanks for the Pinterest tip!!! Please do let us know how you get on with your son. Happy Reading!!
      PS: How about read alouds? He will absolutely benefit from you reading to him, if he does not love reading on his own all the time. I still do plenty of read-alouds with my 8 year old..

  4. Ann October 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Michelle, thanks for your suggestions. I’ve got our store all set up and my son seems somewhat excited. I guess time will tell. Surprisingly, he seems to especially enjoy adding books to his Wish List. As for his book selections, he seems to be particularly interested in books by Gary Paulsen and Percy Jackson. Maybe that’s what all his fourth grade buddies are reading. So even though those books might be a bit above his reading level, I’m going to let him read them (unless I sense his reading comprehension is low). As for read alouds, yes we’ve been reading to him for years, and we still do. 🙂

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