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Got gimmick? Attract teens to your summer reading program.

Many of us have had the frustrating experience of marketing our summer reading program to a teen who is in the library selecting books and, by extension, a reader, only to have him or her beat a hasty retreat while we are still talking about prizes and certificates. We are left wondering why they wouldn't register. Was it something we said? After all, isn't it a win-win if they're already reading? What about the teens who haven't been identified as readers; it can be even more difficult to promote summer reading to them. What to do? Enter the gimmick, the advertising tactic that causes you to pull out your credit card so you too can own a knife that will slice a tin can in half. By doing the unexpected, not being the predictable old library, we can get teens to sit up, pay attention, and participate.

We follow the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CLSP--http://www. theme and last summer's "Beneath the Surface" theme tied in perfectly to our gimmick--scratch-off tickets. Using card stock, clear tape, and a mixture of acrylic paint and dish soap, it was simple to create the tickets. See watch?v=P0xDwDYC4Hw for a scratch-off ticket tutorial. For each batch of ten tickets, six of the prizes were "book of your choice," three were "novelty item of your choice," and one was a gift card. Giving books as prizes is ideal since prizes that are linked to the goal help bring about intrinsic (doing something because you want to) motivation (Clark and Rumbold, 2006). The novelty items (amigurimi, giant bubble wands, stress balls, etc.) and gift cards helped mix it up a little. Our department covers grades six through twelve, but since most of the sixth graders are excited to be moving up to the teen area and want to do summer reading anyway, we offered the tickets to teens entering grades seven through twelve who had not participated in summer reading the previous year and to teens who referred someone entering grades seven through twelve who had not participated. The teens were told that every ticket was a guaranteed winner and we promoted the tickets at one of the middle schools and in our summer reading flyer. We use Evanced summer reader software (http://evancedsolutions. com/products/summerreaderf) and it was easy to look at the current registrants and compare them to a list of last year's to see who was new. We would have loved to offer the scratch-offs to everyone but it wasn't within our budget and teens who regularly participate in our summer reading program don't really need an incentive; they'll do it anyway. It was a lot of fun to hand out the tickets and watch the teens reveal their prizes. We were somewhat flexible with them; if a teen wanted a book instead of a novelty item, we didn't say no.

This year, the CLSP young adult theme is "Spark a Reaction!" and our gimmick is a balloon pop game. It was easy to create a beaker using neon green foam board mounted to another piece of white foam board. Balloons come out of the top to look like a chemical reaction and they contain the same prize offerings as last year: book, novelty item, or gift card. We will again offer a chance to teens entering grades seven through twelve who have not previously participated in our summer reading program and to those who refer them. Hopefully, this spring we'll be able to get into more than one of the schools in our district to promote it, since it generated a lot of excitement at the middle school last year.

Let's not forget that this gimmick is more than a strategy to increase registration numbers. Many of us have teens who come into the library, chose their books, and then leave. For those teens, it's a chance to connect, to talk with them about what they're reading and, hopefully, begin to build a relationship. For teens who aren't avid readers, we have an opportunity to tell them about our manga, graphic novels, magazines, and audiobooks--materials that they may not have considered reading, or to try to connect them with the right book that will put them on the path to becoming a reader. Anything that facilitates a dialogue between librarians and teens changes a mere gimmick into a valuable tool. Scratching the ticket or popping the balloon could be the first step towards a future partnership. Before they walk away, we can say, "But wait, there's more!"

Clark, Christina, and Kate Rumbold. Reading for Pleasure. National Literacy Trust, 2006.

Nancy Evans is a young adult librarian at the Levittown Public Library in Levittown, N.Y. When she is not reading YA books or planning teen programs, she spends time with her three favorite teens--Kim, Craig, and Danny!
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Author:Evans, Nancy
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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