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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Great Prize Debate

How many of you have prizes for your Summer Library Program? I am very interested in the conversation about whether or not giving out trinkets as prizes for reading is a good or bad practice. There has been a lot of discussion on an Association for Library Service to Children list serv about using prizes to motivate kids to read, with compelling arguments on both sides.

Some kids who don't like to read find that a small trinket is a motivation to keep reading and coming to the library during the summer, according to many of the librarians posting to the list. Has this been your experience?

I wonder about adding more cheaply-produced plastic to the world, and what other options there are...What do you do? How does it work? What do kids think?

One great idea from this discussion was asking kids to weed their own collections, and bring in good-condition books they no longer wanted to own. The kids who bring in books really enjoy taking ownership in this way, and the library doesn't have to spend money on books!

What do you do about prizes? Please comment!


  1. We give out up to 3 books as reading rewards. SRP participants get a free book of their choice for every 3 hours of reading. If they fill out an entire reading record, they get entered in a drawing for ten prize bags. We wait until we choose the winners before putting the prize bags together. Prize bag contents include coupons for local eateries and age appropriate toys or other items, usually donations from the public. I'm not happy giving out junky little plastic toys that will end up in the garbage, either. This may not be exciting enough to get all reluctant readers involved, but it's a compromise I can live with. Kids get really excited about choosing their own books. Sometimes kids surprise you. I make a trip to a Scholastic Warehouse sale in May and really try and buy relevant, popular books. This year we did order the little water games from Upstart and each Top Ten Reader will get one.

  2. We do a 10 level summer program. We have a combination of books as prizes and other prizes as well. For example, this year we have 1. Temporary Fish Tattoo, 2. free culvers ice cream, 3. Free Book, 4. a free hamburger or fries from McDonalds or a Free park pass, 5. Summer Reading T-shirt, 6. a beach ball, 7. a sun hat (Gilligan style), 8. Squishy water ball, 9. You pick, and 10. A Second free book. I'm not sure how long my Friends board will support this level of prizes, but people love the fact that we give away usable things (last year it was crayons, chalk, markers etc.) I like that we include books and the shirt which advertises our program for us.

  3. I'm playing around with prizes this Summer. I, too, am not a fan of the trink-ety plastic stuff that is made of oil and just gets tossed in a few days or weeks.
    This summer we are trying a Prize Wheel. For every hour that a child reads, they get to spin the wheel to win a prize. Prizes include books, local eateries, State Park passes, and a "random" box (various gift cards, donated toys, etc). Every time they fill a Time Log, they can enter to win one of 5 Grand Prizes. Top Readers at the end of the Summer recieve medals, free books, and a Library Book Bag with our logo.
    I am also trying out what i'm calling Bonus Time. On the back of the Time Logs are bubbles with different reading and library activities (read before bed, attend a library program, read poetry, listen to a book on CD/tape). Every time they complete 4 of these activities, they earn an extra 15 minutes reading time and a stamp on their Time Log from us.
    Last summer we tried Library Bucks, but we were short volunteers and i spent more of my time counting out Bucks and prizes than playing with the kids.