Blogger Abby Johnson

‘Tis the Season (Again!) for Winter Reading Club

Last year, I posted about my library’s first Winter Reading Club. We had a lot of fun with it (and kept it SIMPLE!) and now we’re gearing up for Year 2, so I wanted to revisit that post and talk about how we’ve tweaked the club this year.

Photo by Abby Johnson
Photo by Abby Johnson

Our goals have shifted a little bit this year. Last year, we were all about getting families in the library and introducing them to library resources. We still want to do that this year, but the additional time we’ve spent working with students in our schools has really highlighted the need to help kids get their blocked cards cleared up. This year, we’ve tried to make it easier for kids to visit the library and read books to earn Fine Bucks to clear up their cards (more on that later!).

We’re again using the BINGO sheet format, inspired by Angie Manfredi, but this year we’re keeping it simple by having one BINGO sheet for all ages (Pre-K through 5th grade; our teen librarian runs a Winter Reading Club for grades 6-12). Instead of requiring folks to choose five boxes in a row, they may choose any five boxes to complete the program. Last year, we found that it was more complicated to suss out which game board (picture book or chapter book) kids needed and then it sometimes got complicated finding them, say, easy chapter book award winners. This year, everyone has the same boxes to choose from and anyone can read anything that fits in the boxes.

Last year, we offered a prize for a BINGO and a second prize for completing all the rest of the boxes. This year, we have one prize for checking off any five boxes on their sheet and then they may continue to read to earn more Fine Bucks. They can complete their sheet, read any number of books on their sheet, they can pick up a new sheet and read the same boxes again, whatever they want to do.

Last year, we really had success with offering Fine Bucks as a prize. Fine Bucks can be redeemed to pay off fines (or, this year, lost books) on Children’s or Young Adult cards. It costs us very little, if anything. We might lose out on a little revenue from the fines, but our Circulation Manager and Administration agreed that it was worth it to get kids using their cards again.

Children must read at least five books to be eligible for Fine Bucks and they earn one fine buck per book. They don’t expire, so even kids who don’t have a fine right NOW can save them for later or use them to keep a DVD a little longer at some point. We had Fine Bucks coming back throughout the year, so we know families are using them!

This year, we are also allowing children and teens to use fine bucks to pay for lost items. We didn’t do that last year because we wanted to encourage them to find and return those items! But we came to the realization that we may never see those items and we’d rather get the kids involved with the library again.

Children will also receive an activity pack when they have read five books. We’re repeating some of the activity packs that we offered over the summer. Again, the point is that we want to offer kids and families something interesting to do during these cold winter months.

And, of course, we’re putting up displays to help kids find books that fit the squares on our game board. This is a great way to highlight different areas of our collection!

Photo by Abby Johnson
Photo by Abby Johnson

We’ve also simplified it on the staff side. Because the only real statistic that we need is how many children actually participated and completed the program, we’re not registering patrons when they pick up their game board. We’re setting out the game boards and we’ll register them when they return a completed game board.

Do you offer a Winter Reading Club at your library? What do you do for yours? I would love to get some more ideas!

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

One comment

  1. Jenni

    We also offer a bingo-style game board for kids and teens. We’ve made one board that applies for all kids ages 0-18. After two bingos, they get a small prize, then after covering the entire board, they get a free book. It’s our first year doing this, so we’ll see how it goes. We’re in the middle of a Food for Fines program, so offering Fine Bucks is something we might do another time but are not doing this year.

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