The prize dilemma

What’s the best summer reading prize? My answer to that used to be automatic: Of course you give them a book. Of COURSE! If you have a lot of money, you give them this:

If you have a more normal amount of money, you can only afford paperbacks so you give them this:

If you have superpowers, you give them this (and prepare for the stampede):

Those all look nice, don’t they? Especially the one that hasn’t even been published yet? But the bottom line is that while books make a wonderful reward for kids who like reading, they make a pretty bad reward for the kids for whom reading is a struggle. You know, the ones Summer Reading is trying to reach?

So libraries turn to things like t-shirts and bags, usually with the name of the theme and the library’s name on them, and they’re very cute!

But then, aren’t you sending the message with non-book prizes that now that they are done with that yucky old reading, they can have something they’ll like better?

Then there’s our other prize dilemma. Virtually everything we hand out as our daily prizes is small stuff made in China. After last year’s bendables painted with lead paint, that no longer looks as appealing. And one of our always favorite prizes, shiny satin sand animals, came this year with big tags stating “NOT A TOY”. Since the company listed it as a toy and didn’t mention their non-toy status on their website, that was a little annoying!

So for next year, I can’t decide. Do we get rid of concrete prizes for daily prizes and call it “Going Green”? What do you do with the little guys, who don’t understand the concept of coupons or working toward a bigger reward? I am just not sure, but I’d love to hear what other libraries are planning.

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2 Responses to The prize dilemma

  1. Boy, am I with you on this one. It is a dilemma. Our library has for the last couple of years, had a mix of weekly prizes, the little “junk.”

    We still give out a paperback book as the big prize because I think it is our message that books are for everyone, including struggling and/or reluctant readers. We had sucess with the World Records book as a prize and this year we offered the graphic novel version of Artemis Fowl. I think books like these, as well as books like the Kinney’s and the Pilkey’s have appeal for the reluctant and struggling readers, too.

    Can I ask, though, having just finished Diary of a Wimpy Kid, if it’s just me, or did any one else find it mean spirited, to the point that I don’t think I could, in good conscienscience, offer it as a prize. I haven’t had this negative a reaction to a character since Junie B. Jones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in public library work because I believe in offering children the chance to read what they want, even if I don’t approve. I don’t generally dislike books just because children behave badly in them. That Wimpy Kid is just so mean to his best friend and his little brother and while I do believe it does portray a simplified reality of behavior that children may see in school, the message it seems to give readers is, if you are picked on and bullied, by all means pass this on by picking on those who are weaker than you. It made me very unhappy.

    Again, I don’t think all books for children must be happy and sweet or all ficitonal children well behaved or if badly behaved, learn the error of their ways by book’s end. Tell me, is it just me?


  2. susan says:

    Hi, Jan! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you–I was on vacation.

    Wimpy Kid is unquestionably mean-spirited, I’d have to agree. And yet I think it’s much more truthful if exaggerated than JunieB. Here’s this middle kid with a bullying older brother and a highly protected younger brother, both of whom get him in trouble regularly. And he says right out that part of the reason he takes Rowley under his wing is “I get to use all the tricks Rowley pulls on ME”. But then when he goes too far and Rowley gets mad with him, he feels bad about it even though in true guy fashion, he can’t exactly articulate that.

    So even though it’s mean-spirited, I find it to be pretty authentic in the way guys tend to treat each other, and it also makes me laugh a lot! I guess I’d put it in the same category with a fair number of the stories in Scieszka’s Guys Read anthology, and I think it has its place. But you make a great point that possibly handing it out as a prize is giving it a little too much…support, maybe? I’ll have to give that some more thought!


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