DALLAS — New research shows a controversial approach to teaching in Dallas public schools is working: Paying kids to read.
A Harvard study, recently profiled in Time magazine, focused on a Dallas program that offers cash incentives to help kids retain what they read, making them into overall better students.
But should we really bribe students to learn?
Third-grader Mikaeyla Carter, at Birdie Alexander Elementary School, isn’t worried. “If you read books, your brain gets huge with information... really big,” she said.
Fellow student Ariel Wallace agrees. “Some kids, they like money and if they say, 'Well, if I read I can get some money. Just by reading.'”
"'Bribe' is a word that's a no-no,” explained Thelma Morris-Lindsey, the founding director of Earning by Learning. “That's a word that literally means a monetary reward for corrupt behavior."
And there's nothing corrupt about reading. The Earning by Learning program, funded by a non-profit organization, prefers to call the cash an "incentive."
Since 1996, it has paid out almost $1.5 million.
A cover story in Time magazine recently featured a rigorous research project which declared Earning by Learning to be a success.
“What E by L is saying is that we value what you're doing,” Morris-Lindsey said. “It's just as important as the gentleman who runs 100 yards with a pigskin in his hands who gets a million dollars.”
And what happens when the money stops? It turns out that many of the kids keep reading.
That's because the program offers other incentives that include letting kids pick their own books; letting them read at their own grade level; and offering positive feedback by taking a test as soon as they finish a book.
Does Mikaeyla Carter do it for the money? "No," she said. "I like reading... a lot.”
And so do many of the 77,000 kids who've been through the program.
"Dallas is only as good as the intellectual capital we develop here in Dallas,” Morris-Lindsey said.