Prize Books + Astroturf = Awesomeness

A few weeks before we wrapped-up our Summer Reading Program at the Children’s Library, we had the realization that we needed to figure out how to handle the final prizes of the summer.  In the past we gave each participant a free book, and had drawings for prize baskets.  This year we did away with the baskets and made sure that each child who finished his/her reading log (we have these cute little memento coupon and activity booklets) would get to pick out two books that s/he would keep forever.

Anywho, Mary and I spent several hours brainstorming what on earth to do with all of these books in our teeny-tiny space.  Mary finally came up with the winning idea of moving one of our activity tables up to near our circulation desk – that way we can keep an eye on things.  Last year we had trouble with kids putting prize books into our collection and vice versa.  I was concerned that proximity to our desk wouldn’t do the trick of keeping things neat and together.  But it was a start.

It was a little while later that day that I thought of covering the prizes when kids weren’t looking through them – my initial thought was to have two tablecloths – the one underneath would be brown, and the one on top would be green – sort of mimicking this year’s “Dig into Reading” theme.  It was a few minutes later that I thought of using astroturf on the top layer and couldn’t stop laughing.

And that’s what we did!  Mary went and found some cheap fake grass, a brown tablecloth, and then she made a really cute “Keep Of the Grass” sign.  We had thought of adding fake bugs among the prize books, but it turns out there was no space for the bugs – they would have just gotten in the way.  The fake bugs ended up on and around the sign.

The turf is a bit awkward to roll back for the kids, but it’s been fantastic.  It’s been a conversation piece for people (you have prizes for your reading program?), and it’s been very good at keeping the books separated as well as kept non-SRP participants out of the prizes.  We’ve had two parents try to “shop” the books after the cover was pulled up (after the kids had chosen their books, and before we could re-cover them).  One grandmother was sad that she couldn’t purchase one of the books.  Also, almost every child has enjoyed the sensory experience of rubbing his/her hands along the grass.

There’s actually been benefits to the tight space:

  • We arranged the ages for the books starting from the youngest on the left to oldest at the right.  This has allowed families with children in different reading levels a chance to browse at the same time without being in one another’s way.
  • The kids aren’t overwhelmed by a huge choice.
  • And most importantly, we’re able to refresh the book titles often, so that every participant gets a chance at cool books.  There won’t be those sad leftovers that are anything but prizes.

We have most of the extra books in the boxes beneath the table, as well as the final gift bags.  So we grab the gift bags for the children (which gives them somewhere to put their new books) and then whip back the covering.  Usually it gets a really good response from both the children and the parents.  Yay for drama!

I definitely think that we’ll use this same method next year (with the layers changing to try to reflect the theme).  The one thing that really surprised me was the number of people who were surprised that we gave out final prizes – and I’m so thankful that we made such a dramatic display for the prizes which helped us to discover this.  Obviously we need to push this fact a little more.  But what’s really touching is that we still had hundreds of children participating who never realized that they could win final “forever” books.

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