By Kitty Felde 

Let’s say you’ve tried everything you can think of to get your reluctant reader to pick up a book. Now what?

Here’s a suggestion from a librarian: bribe them.

It doesn’t have to be much. Olineke Olaniya of the Indianapolis Public Library says she challenges young patrons to read two books a week. In exchange, she offers a dollar or some treat from the dollar store. “It works!” she says.

How does she know? Before she hands over the cash, she demands an oral book summary.

Money isn’t the only incentive that can inspire a reader. Here’s a few more:

–      Read a few pages in exchange for a set number of minutes with a gaming device

–      Read a chapter and get excused from a particular chore

–      Finish the book and get his or her favorite dinner two nights in a row

–      Keep track of reading progress on a chart, using stickers or stars to denote pages read and negotiate with child about the big prize at the end of a month

As to the ethical question of using bribery to influence behavior, the experts disagree.

Critics like marriage and family therapist Ingrid Higgins say, “Paying children for good behavior seems to create a sense of entitlement and an expectation they will always get money for good behavior.” 

But Shaun Gallagher, writing in Psychology Today, says offering treats is not bribery. “A bribe is an incentive you offer someone in exchange for bad behavior. A reward is an incentive you offer someone in exchange for good behavior.”

What do you think? Have you found a technique that inspires your young reader to pick up a book? Email us at:

Kitty Felde hosts the Book Club for Kids podcast, a free, 20 minute show where kids talk about books. She also writes The Fina Mendoza Mysteries series of books and podcasts.

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