Okay, so after a few hours of brainstorming different ways to make the reading challenge program enticing but easy on my substitute librarian wallet, I realized that I’ve already done this before! Last year, during my internship at a local middle school, I helped the media specialists there put on their March is Reading Month “Reading Madness” program, where students earn prizes based on the number of minutes they’d read or the number of times they voted in the school-wide Battle of the Books (they had to have read the books in order to vote). The media specialists used a small amount of money out of their book fair earnings to get giveaways like Scholastic bookmarks, pencils, eraser puzzles, etc., but most of the prizes used to encourage students were donated by the PTA and community partners like restaurants, ice cream shops, bowling alleys, and arcades. It took a lot of leg work — figuring out which businesses would be receptive to our calls, playing phone tag numerous times before speaking to the right person, driving out to businesses to get the prizes, writing out the guidelines to how students earn prizes (we handed out smaller prizes for any students who turned in a certain number of minutes in a given week, and a weekly drawing for bigger prizes using raffle tickets students had earned for other activities), and finally, communicating the program details to the staff and students.
Like I said, it takes a little more planning, but the good news is I don’t have to launch the program right away. I might wait ’til March is Reading Month, but if I get everything lined up I might announce it in February, to give students time to get started!