At my library we have a monthly guessing game in a display case near the Children’s Services desk. Last month’s theme was guessing the number of drops of water in a bottle. This month’s game has lots of puppets stuffed in the case. In the winter it was about snowflakes. The library has been doing this since before I started working there, and I can see the positive effects of the game.
To participate in the month’s game, a library visitor must fill out a guessing form at the Children’s desk. A child doesn’t have to be able to write to participate; family members can help make sure the guess itself is legible. There is generally an employee working at the desk, and having the forms and pencils near us encourages interaction between the families and staff. Sure, we greet people as they enter the Children’s Library, but the guessing game allows for more meaningful interactions. Anyone can guess – it’s not just for children, so we have memorable conversations with caregivers too. The guessing game is a conversation starter, a recurring activity that children can look forward to every visit to our library, and builds upon skills like observation, counting and estimation in addition to incorporating several of the Every Child Ready to Read practices. The prize, generally a donated book in near new condition, is awarded on the first day of the following month, and the name of the person with the closest guess is posted near the display case.
On special days we also have scavenger hunts and the related sheets and prizes are at the desk. This is another way for us to show that we are not scary librarians, but rather nice and fun. This summer we are celebrating Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday on July 28 with her character hidden around the room.
Does your library have passive programming like this? Do you have a way to encourage children and families to approach the Children’s service desk? Share your successes in the comments.