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Bucking the System [Kids Today / USA Today]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Kids Today / USA Today
Cover story
Dec. 3, 1995

Liliana Romero was paid $1.50 for every book she read over the summer. She finished 10 and got enough cash to buy a new CD. This summer, she plans to read 30 more.

Knowing I am going to get paid makes me want to read more and more,” says Romero, 11, who is in sixth grade at Edmondson Elementary in Norwalk, Calif. “It’s amazing how much I am learning.”

Romero, her school, and the company that sponsors the reading program all like the idea if paying kids to learn. But other kids and educators say students should read because they want to—not because they’re given money.

One big supporter of being paid to learn is Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Earning by learning mainly targets kids from low-income families,” Gingrich explains. “They may have no books at home and they may live on food stamps, but they understand the concept that they read and we pay. It works out fine.”

This isn’t the only program of its ilk. Other organizations around the country reward kids who do all of their work with trips to amusement parks, medals at the end of the year, and extra computer time.

Judith Renee, executive director of the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, thinks it is a bad idea to reward kids with gifts just so they do what they are supposed to do.

“Kids need to be motivated by their own curiosity, not by money,” she insists. “If you start paying them to study at a young age, they will never be motivated to learn anything on their own.”

Jenny Leazer, 12, Fort Collins, Colo., agrees. “I don’t think it is a good idea because kids should want to learn instead of being bribed to learn.”

But Erik Hundley, 14, of South Nyack, N.Y., thinks most kids would work harder if they were given money to learn. “I would,” he says. “I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to make a little money?”

Jack Ryan, 15, of Washington state agrees with Leazer. says: “Education is a privilege. Paying kids to learn seems like a waste of money.”


More Kids Today / USA Today Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.