Thursday, June 12, 2014

Those Summer Reading Club Prizes

So. Revamping the prizes for the Summer Reading Club. We're doing it this year and I'm really, really excited about the changes we've made. We typically have about 1000 PreK-5th grade kids finish the Summer Reading Club and earn prizes. This is in addition to our Daycare Summer Reading Club kids, who get a different prize for simplicity's sake. Our programming budget for the year is $5000 and out of that, we designate $3000 for Summer Reading Club. This includes hiring performers, ordering SRC supplies like book bags and reading logs, decorations, prizes, and supplies for all programs throughout the summer.

For many years, we've offered a packet of coupons donated by local businesses (free ice cream, pizza, zoo passes, etc.), which we're still doing. I also like to give them a little something with the coupons because not everyone can use the coupons, and the idea of coupons is vague, especially for littles. BUT. I HATE the idea of giving them some cheap piece of plastic. 

So this year, we've put together a bunch of different Science Activity Packs. When kids complete the Summer Reading Club (for us, it's reading 30 books or reading for 10 hours), they'll get their freebie coupons and they'll select from a menu of science activities that they can take home and do. Here's our menu: 

Each of these links will take you to more details about the activity, but basically we provide the supplies and a sheet with instructions, challenges, and/or ideas for additional activities they can do with the materials provided. Each of the packs we're providing cost 30 cents or less to put together, including the plastic bags. We made at least 100 of each to start with and they're costing WAY less than the plastic prizes we were giving away before. 

Yes, they were labor-intensive to put together, but it gave us a great project to utilize the volunteers we have at the library! And they have been very popular with the kids. They love choosing from our menu and we've not had one complaint about them not getting a toy. 

The other big change we made with prizes this year was to eliminate our "Grand Prize" drawings in favor of giving away a free book to every child who completes two levels of the program. In the past, kids could earn raffle tickets for every so many books or minutes they read. The prizes were high-appeal, but only a few kids would actually win them. 

This year, we've culled together prize books from donations and from review copies I receive for this blog. We may also supplement by ordering additional books through the Scholastic FACE (Family and Community Engagement) program, which provides books at a very low cost to organizations who will give those books away to children. 

I wondered if we'd have upset kids and parents when they didn't see all those prize drawing boxes on the back of our desk, but so far everyone's understood the need for a change. We only have to tell them that this way, EVERYONE has the potential to win something, not just 20-odd kids at the end of the summer. 

There are more reasons than that, of course. By giving away books, we're practicing intrinsic motivation (reading for the love of reading) rather than encouraging extrinsic motivation (reading because you might win Legos). Guess which kind of motivation is more effective in creating life-long readers? To go along with that, we've emphasized to kids throughout our school visits that we would love to help them pick out books that are AWESOME and will be fun to read this summer and we've been doing a LOT of readers' advisory.

I'll have more information about our science activity packs in the coming days, but in the meantime I'd love to know what creative ideas you've had for Summer Reading prizes!