Sunday, November 22, 2015

Summer Reading Program and Reading Incentives

Last week I went to the annual Connecticut YA Librarian Day, put together by the fabulous Linda Williams, where the focus was on Summer Reading.

Lately there's been chatter on if reading incentives work during summer reading.

For my 11 summers as a YA Librarian, I've always had summer reading prizes. It took me a little bit to hit my stride in summer reading, but I hit on a system that worked.

Or at least I thought it worked.


Here was my system:

Read and review books over the summer.

Prize Tier: Books prizes are in total, teens chose their prizes
1. One Book = box of candy (the kind you get from the movie theater)
2. Four Books = small prize (usually $5 and under: duct tape, author swag, headphones, crafty items...)
3. 7 Books: A gently used book or ARC or new book (sometimes signed)
4. 10 Books: A gently used book or ARC or new book (sometimes signed) or raffle tickets
5. 13 Books: A gently used book or ARC or new book (sometimes signed)  or raffle tickets
6. 17 Books: A gently used book or ARC or new book (sometimes signed)  or raffle tickets
7. 20 Books: A gently used book or ARC or new book (sometimes signed)  or raffle tickets

After that, awesome job, but that was the prize limit.

The raffle tickets were used at the end of the summer party, where I had bigger prizes - lots of book packages (several series books together, ARCs of hot books coming out that fall, pizza and movie tickets...) Then there was the big prize - one year it was a blu-ray player. The last year because of grant funding, I bought a PS4 for the grand prize.

And I thought that was really cool and would have teens of middle school and high school reading towards a chance at that big prize.

Until I heard some of the research. And you can find that research here

The research says - it doesn't work at all. My experience doesn't reflect that because the year of the PS4 was the year that I had the most participation and the most readers. But, I can see where the research is coming from.

Now I'm not longer in charge of a summer reading program, but it still made me think of changes that I might make to my tier system.

I would still offer prizes, but they would be more book oriented: journals, fun pens and pencils, swag signed from authors (bookmarks or bookplates or posters), and drawing tools. Basically, anything bookish. Since I'm crafty, I sometimes make items for the summer reading prizes and might make a few bookish items. Plus of course books, I love giving out books to teens.

For the raffle at the end, I still might have a big prize for the first few years, but slowly scale back the big prize.

And I love this idea that other libraries are doing and would adopt it: Having some of the raffle items be dollar amounts for charitable donations, especially for charities within the community. Not only does this help the community, but it helps foster a love of helping others. Plus the PR would be good for the library.

What do you do for Summer Reading Prizes? 
Does it work for your library?


Laura Renshaw said...

The idea of donating to a charity is an interesting one. I serve a fairly upscale community and that might really resonate with them.

I have thought about the "bookish" prizes a lot. Our teens do seem to really like books. But bookish prizes kind of assume that your target audience for summer reading is those who are already using the library a lot. I wonder what prize or incentive would make kids who _don't_ use the library want to come in...Food for thought.

Laura Renshaw
Teen Librarian
Salt Lake County Libraries

Celadon said...'s a question. I've always thought incentives, especially things like raffles, and especially for teens, were more an incentive to come to the library than they were an incentive to read. Unless the prize is HUGE (like a pS4, lol) it's not enough to get a non-reader who does not want to read to...well, read. But someone who wants something to do...well, it's enough to get them in the door. Then it's the librarian's job to get them to a book that interests them, and hopefully they'll choose to continue reading because they want to. I just...can't imagine anyone choosing to read for hours for a prize if they actively dislike what they're doing. If that makes sense. A lot of the research on the link is for kids under 12, and the alternatives they present aren't...useful for a librarian (how are you supposed to give verbal praise as a real alternative? It's not like they are literally your don't know them...)

Am I the only one who thinks of incentives like that? Obviously I have no data to support me...but I thought I'd leave an annoying comment all the same x_X