That was the summer-reading-club theme once proposed by a group of blackhearted children's librarians in my Chicago Public Library days; I thought of it today when I saw on PUBYAC a query about "read for fines" programs, wherein children can work off their overdue book fines through time spent doing some sustained silent reading in the library.
Speaking as someone who became a librarian in order to get a handle on the overdue fines I've been accumulating since I was five, I would have appreciated this approach. But its logic completely confounds me. Reading as a penalty is right up there with reading for money (as in, read seven books for a McDonald's gift certificate, a horror show of a reading club I had to run one year) as an extremely mixed message about the value of books. And while reading-for-fines does offer an alternative for those who can't afford to pay, it faces off children with money versus children who read instead. Euw.
Even if I were an Ayn Rand kind of pro-fine librarian, I would have trouble getting my mind around what this policy says about fines, never mind reading. By allowing children to substitute the very activity which resulted in the fine for the fine itself, you undermine the punitive and, hopefully, deterring nature of the penalty. You're winking. Because of course you're not saying that the reading-for-fines is punitive: that would make the rest of your workday a lie. Or not, in which case get out of here.