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Every year, there are discussions and ideas thrown around about incentives for the Summer Library Program.  I've heard compelling arguments against having any incentives, and just as compelling arguments for having a variety of incentives (including cheap, plastic items).  What works for you?

One idea I came across recently (from the Twinsburg, OH library) is looking for more prizes that are about the experience.  Several libraries I know of give coupons for a free pass at the zoo or the YMCA or a baseball game, or use the terrific statewide incentives like passes to the state park or, this year, a local cave.  These are great, but they also count on the participation of an adult.  In Twinsburg, they focus on experiences that are a little easier for kids to do on their own, like:

  • Popsicles (eating a popsicle is certainly an experience, and these are a big hit in Twinsburg!)

  • face painting (they are training teen volunteers to do this) 
  • a small art project they can do in the library 
  • decorating a cupcake or cookie

Personally, I'm a big fan of getting away from plastic trinkets that get thrown in the trash or stepped on and broken right away.  Books are a great option, many libraries cull from the donations they receive, or shop at deep discount stores or the Scholastic literacy partnerships.  Another small, fun, non-plastic prize that fits with this year's theme is cool rocks!   If there is someone in your community who has a rock tumbler, this would be a great collaboration!  Tumble up some rocks to give as prizes--most kids I know are pretty interested in pretty rocks...

What are you going to do this year??