For the past several years the Radford Public Library has given kids who participated in our Summer Reading Program a small reward for every five hours read. This year the prizes are a pick from our treasure chest (full of small novelty toys), a pick from a display case (full of slightly nicer novelty toys), a free pool pass to Randolph Park and finally a free book. Those readers who go past the 20 hours necessary to complete the program and read 50 hours get their name in the newspaper as a STAR READER. This year the library is offering a special opportunity to kids who read 100 hours, but more on that in a bit.
The giving of prizes in library Summer Reading Programs is somewhat contentious in the library world. There is a small pile of academic research that shows the only prize that truly motivates kids to self-identify as a Reader is the intrinsic kind. Praise, the chance to read with someone they admire, their name on a wall proclaiming them to be a Reader – that sort of thing. Librarians in the field, however, report that the potential for praise will not get a reluctant reader to sign up for a Summer Reading Program while the chance for a little novelty toy often will. They argue that the intrinsic rewards can come later and the most important first step is to get the kid to read voluntarily in the first place. After all, how can a kid ever find out you like reading if you don’t ever read? The Radford Public Library hedges its bets and strives to offer both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to the kids in the Summer Reading Program. Extrinsic rewards at first, but the big prize is a free book – and only Readers get really motivated by that particular lure. I’m not sure if the free pool pass (very generously donated by Randolph Park) is an intrinsic or extrinsic reward, but either way it is much appreciated by the kids. An experience to remember, one earned by reading, is a good thing no matter how you look at it.
As the summer comes to a close we are gearing up for our Summer Reading Program Grand Finale. This year we wanted to offer an experience, not just another Magic Show, so the Radford Public Library has rented a Dunk Machine. Every five hours read by kids this summer earns them three chances to dunk somebody. I can’t tell you how many young faces lit up when they heard about this opportunity. It was due to several earnest pleas to be dunked themselves that the Library tacked on one additional prize this summer. Kids who read 100 hours this summer (and their parent or guardian is present and signs a release form) get to be dunked. The date for this experience is easy to remember: August, Friday the 13th at 2 p.m.