Today’s post is written by Tricia Pfeil, librarian at St. Joseph/St. Robert Elementary School in Pennsylvania. You can find Tricia’s library website here. Would you like to share your ideas with the Elementary Librarian readers? Click here to learn how!
Like many modern day librarians, I don’t shush my students the minute they walk through the door and expect complete silence. I try to make the library a fun place where students can ask questions, learn how to find answers, use technology, and of course, discuss popular books. The more I engage the students, the more I get out of them and the more they get out of library class. Last year was a great year and this year, I wanted to keep the excitement going. I wanted to do something small each month to make the kids laugh and keep them interested, so I started a monthly library contest.
I found that no matter how big or small, every child loves a chance to win a prize, and if I can make that prize library related, that’s even better. Our first contest was to guess how many books were in the library. This was a fun one because all ages and grades could participate. Each student that wanted to take a guess could write their answer on a ticket, and the winner was picked and announced on our morning news program. We’re lucky that our school has a news program, but if we didn’t, I would still announce the winner over the loudspeaker. Involving the entire school has made the contests more entertaining for everyone. The winner earned $5 to spend at our upcoming book fair.
Our next contest offered a chance to win the new Wimpy Kid book on the day of its national release. I decided to make entering this one a little tricky. Students had to go to our library website to retrieve instructions about how to enter. I’ve wanted to get more traffic on the site and this was the perfect way to get students to browse through it. Again, the winner was chosen on our morning news program, but this time the “book fairy” pulled the ticket (I’m a big costume fanatic, but I’ll save writing about that for another time). Offering the newest book in any series not only gets the series fans excited, but it also sparks interest in my non-readers to take a look at what all the hubbub is about and pick up the first book.
Some of our contests are going to have new books as prizes, but some will be different. Our most recent contest winner was allowed to be the first person to check out the newest Rick Riordan book House of Hades and our next will be the first to read Veronica Roth’s Allegiant. Other contest prizes will be for a Scholastic book of their choice (so I can use my points) or maybe a stuffed Mo Willems pigeon for the little ones. I’ve even though about choosing multiple winners in December to come have lunch in the library and decorate our Christmas tree. Additionally, I’ve been toying with a way to award an e-book. Maybe I’ll give a lucky winner an Amazon gift card.
So far, I’ve just done random ticket drawings, but I’ve been thinking of ways to reward creativity as well. Perhaps I’ll ask Dork Diary fans to create their own entry or Origami Yoda admirers to make their best Star Wars origami. The possibilities are endless, and it’s really gotten my creative juices flowing. Although I’d have to say that my favorite part of all of this is how enthusiastic the kids have been. The day one contest ends, my students are already asking about the next one. My principal and many of the parents have also given a lot of positive feedback.
As the year continues, I hope the anticipation surrounding the contests continues as well. Part of the beauty of it is that the contests can be as big or as small as I want to make them. How many times do students go crazy over simply getting a piece of candy for giving a correct answer? It doesn’t take much to get students excited, and if I can channel that excitement towards a book, than I consider this contest experiment a success!