Going Prizeless in SLP - Update

Our robot is coming together -yellow is body,
red is arms; blue-legs; orange-neck, feet, hands.
We are just completing our third week (of nine) in the SLP. As I mentioned in our original post on going prizeless for the school age kids,  we've been thinking about this for awhile. This year we took the leap.

So how is it going? We have had over 300 return visits to check in and get new game cards. Rather than weekly doo-dads, each time they return, kids get a sticker or two to help us build our robot - and money is donated to kid-friendly community organizations for the stickers as well.

We haven't heard a peep about "Where are the prizes?" or "Don't we get something besides a sticker?"

We had a hunch that this would be the case. We use stickers for 1000 Books and Baby Book Bees at each level. We also have stickers during each year's Smart Cookie Club that we offer to kids. And our Lego Check-out Club let's kids add lego bricks to a collaborative lego sculpture. So a significant number of kids expect and enjoy the concept of "building" or "making" something bigger with their contributions.

Kids are very excited about completing four game cards to receive a book. That is a goal that really motivates. And Sara's adaptions for the game cards (based on our transliteracy design from previous years) have made the program for school age kids fun and worthwhile. Reading and literacy activities have morphed from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards.

Sometimes our fear of what "might" happen keeps us from embracing change that moves us ahead.  We'll keep you posted at the blog on how we do as we go further into the summer.

So far, so good!

And for an update on how we fund the book prizes, stop here! For an update on going prizeless ten days from the end of SLP, stop here! And for the final results, stop here


  1. Thank you so much for this post! I have been thinking about this for a long time, but have been similarly afraid of those questions, "You mean we don't get any PRIZES?" I completely agree that moving away from extrinsic rewards is a very important thing to do if we are going to teach kids that reading is REWARDING IN ITSELF!

  2. Hip-Hip-Hooray!! Glad to hear it's going well in LaCrosse. We gave up prizes that are not books, too. Not one word, question, complaint from kids or parents. Quite the contrary, actually. Many are thanking us. We did reallocate the "trinket" expense to buying more popular paperbacks (the ones kids really want, like Geronimo Stilton, Wimpy Kid, Origami Yoda, Willems' Gerald & Piggie, etc.) We play everyday with kids at the library. Experiment of the day include simple experiments like making butter and finding out how many drops of water will fit on the face of a penny. Next sacred cow to go...... spending $350 for a performer for 45 minutes.

    1. We stopped using most performers to pay for the books - never looked back!

  3. We combined our SRP to encompass all ages this year (0-Adult) and discontinued the doo-dads too. We have weekly logs to get people in the door, and a gift card drawing each week. All kids get a book at the end, then we are going to throw together all the logs turned in for a few grand prize gift baskets. I bought a wagon for the 0-6 age group grand prize and most families have been hyped up about it. No sad faces over the discontinuation of t-shirts and toys. Great job, Marge and Company! :)

    1. I'm so glad people are sharing their experiences. We need to see these kinds of alternatives to cheapo geegaws so librarians can say, "Hey, we can do that!!!"

  4. Is there a certain number of stickers you put on each square of the robot? How do you determine when to add a new block to his body? Thanks for the ideas for next year. Will you be willing to make library cards for all of us-the ones the kids have to complete to earn the stickers? ~~Leah from Boulder Junction & the Institute.

  5. Hi Leah,
    We just put on as many stickers as would fit - we used large and small stickers - so it just kind of was catch-as-catch-can. We had the little robot mock-up as our guide and figured it would be either really short or really long depending on how many kids came in. We built it in a way that could accommodate either scenario! If you look at the first post in the series, you see what we did for a card. Happy to share what we develop next year with you (email and remind me I said that!!!)