Blogger Abby Johnson

Unlocking Achievements in Summer Reading

Photo by Jeremy Kunz
Photo by Jeremy Kunz

We are constantly analyzing and tweaking our Summer Reading Club to make it easier and more fun for both patrons and staff. Last year, I talked about how we went “prizeless” and this year we’re taking it a step farther and giving out a free book to every child who finishes the Summer Reading Club (instead of plastic prizes or raffles). Having just one prize to hand out simplifies things immensely for my staff and a book is a great prize to encourage further reading.

But then the question remains: what about those kids who want to do more? Certainly we will have some children who complete the Summer Reading requirements in June and look to us for more to do. Without handing out prizes all summer, what can we offer them to keep them occupied (and keep them reading!)?

This summer, we’re going to try a card with additional “achievements to unlock” once they complete the Summer Reading Club and collect their coupons and free book. This won’t be for additional prizes (although some of our “achievements” will be connected to prize drawings), but just for the pride in unlocking achievements and the fun of having something else to do.

We’re going to include five achievements on our card and kids can try to unlock all of them or just do the ones that interest them. They are:

1. Dollars and Sense – one of our local banks has sponsored this program with us for the past several years. They donate a couple of Visa gift cards and every child who reads a book about money or finances over the summer can enter to win. The idea is to increase financial literacy in our children.

2. Bedtime Math – we provided this program last summer along with our Summer Reading Club, but we did not really succeed in promoting it, so participation was really low. I’m hoping that by making it one of our achievements, we can drum up more interest.

3. Super Reader – read an additional amount and then come in and decorate your own superhero that we’ll hang from the ceiling. I’m excited to have a visual for how much kids are reading this summer!

4. Read Around the World – we are bringing back the map bulletin board to encourage kids to read a book set in another country and write a short review for us to post.

5. Add to our Kids’ Choice display – we’re dedicating one of our displays to feature kids’ favorite books. To unlock this challenge, kids will choose a book and write a short recommendation on a bookmark that’ll go in the book.

You can download a non-spiffy, very basic draft of our achievement card here. (We will size them down when we run off copies.)

We’ll include the achievement cards at the front of our coupon packets that go out to every child who completed the Summer Reading Club. The card will direct families to ask for additional instructions at the Children’s Desk since some of the activities are not self-explanatory or they may have to pick up a form or log from us. As achievements are completed, we’ll stamp their card.

I’m not sure how this will go this year, but I’m hopeful that it will give kids something fun to do while still being fairly easy on staff to maintain.

What do you do to encourage your kids to keep reading and/or engaging with the library all summer long?

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


  1. Jessica

    We’re working really hard this year to bring the focus back to books and reading. During the rest of the year we are all about makerspaces, art, crafts, building etc. But this year our SRP will be very reading-centric. We couldn’t quite do away completely with prizes (although it’s coming!) so our prizes will all be related to reading and building a reading community. We’ll give clip-on book lights, bookmarks and reader’s journals. We too will have tasks to be completed that help kids practice talking about books or build that community like, “make a book trailer” or recommend a book.” I think it will be our best and highest quality program yet!

  2. Sarah

    We do something similar. Our program has two levels and we had kids finish in early summer and we wanted them to keep reading-and they still wanted a game board or something to fill out. They like the idea of marking something off and tracking progress, so we created our “Eager Reader Challenge” Each entry if five additional hours of reading, which is equal to one level. They can fill the challenges out as many times as they want and they get entered into a prize drawing for things like SRP t-shirts, tote bags, and $5 Barnes and Noble Gift Cards. Our larger branches have more drawings than the smaller branches do and while not everyone gets a prize, they seem to just like the extra challenge. We also had plenty of bookmarks left over from various things, so each time they turned in an Eager Reader we gave them a bookmark.

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