Help me get teenagers to read! With good yet cheap prizes...
May 23, 2007 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Seeking cheap yet not-lame prizes for a teen summer reading program...

At my library, we are doing one of those programs where you have a reading record you can fill in and bring back for prizes. We've got some good prizes for the under-13 crowd and I'm satisfied with that, but I've been looking at Oriental Trading Company and other bulk-toys-and-novelties shops and I'm having trouble finding anything that wouldn't scream "lame" to the 13-17 folks.

I'd like to keep it under $20 per dozen, ideally.

Special bonus points for anything related to puzzles/brainteasers/detectives.
posted by Jeanne to Shopping (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
At our local library, the prizes are coupons (donated by local restaurants) for free pizza, free hamburgers, free milkshakes, things like that... Since they're donated, it costs the library nothing... And I don't think any 13-17 year olds think free food is "lame." :)
posted by amyms at 10:31 AM on May 23, 2007


(I am a loser, aren't I?)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:38 AM on May 23, 2007

Seconding the free food...tough to beat that on your budget.

At my local dollar store, I've seen red laser pointers for sale. Those are a reasonable amount of fun for a buck. (My 2 year olds like to chase the dot on the floor and try to step on it, for some reason.)
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Amyms, you are right about the free food! I will definitely call around and see if I can rustle up any donations.

Harmonicas: good idea!
Laser pointers: good idea! Yet I am too frightened of kids trying to blind each other with them.
posted by Jeanne at 10:41 AM on May 23, 2007

Cell-phone charms!

(Am I any cooler now?)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:42 AM on May 23, 2007

My worst idea yet! (And too expensive, too.)

Laser pointers are illegal in some places, by the way, so you might want to look into that before handing them out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, I can't believe I hadn't thought of cell phone charms. Great idea.
posted by Jeanne at 10:50 AM on May 23, 2007

How many prizes do you need? I have cell phone charms I could donate.
posted by misha at 11:05 AM on May 23, 2007

a drawstring backpack with your reading program logo and info on it would be cool, inexpensive and would raise awareness of the program, but you would have to order a bunch. maybe you could get some local sponsors and add their logos to the backpacks to cover the cost? it could be better than free junk food. my girlfriend is a fast/voracious reader and has been since childhood and one summer she got a coupon for every book she read, but she'd read, like, five a day. that's a lot of hamburgers. anyhow, you can put books in a backpack, so that is kind of appropriate.
posted by snofoam at 11:10 AM on May 23, 2007

We have a similar event at our library system, and have had great success getting an area cinema chain to donate movie posters and swag, along with a bunch of free movie passes. They were happy to donate them.
posted by jbickers at 11:17 AM on May 23, 2007

Weird things here.
posted by fionab at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2007

You can get dollar packs of scrapbooking supplies (I know lots of teen girls into scrapbooking, but maybe that's unusual). Similarly, other papers, stickers, stationery sets.

These are a good take on the traditional blank puzzle. Lots of styles. I remember buying some like that as a teen.

Bookmarks? Cool ones like this perhaps.

Puzzle piece or other similar charms, assuming that wasn't just a fad a couple years ago. ;)

Bit female-centric ideas there, sorry.
posted by artifarce at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2007

Both of my kids are in the Summer Reading Program and they get coupons for pizza, little trinkets from a large box and a whole assortment of used books that did not sell at the latest Mall book sale.
posted by winks007 at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2007

Did you browse through Archie McPhee?
posted by Melinika at 12:00 PM on May 23, 2007

Leather bookmarks with the program logo on them. I got one of these with my college logo when I was 17 or so, and I still have and treasure it. Then again, I'm a book nerd...
posted by vorfeed at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2007

I got an alarm clock for participating in a summer reading program when I was 15 and it was pretty neat. Actually, I had decided that I was too cool to document the books I read but the librarian showed me the alarm clock as I was helping my brother sign up and I was sold.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 12:13 PM on May 23, 2007

Not for nothing, but the reason I still love Pizza Hut's personal pan pizzas is because of Book It. Enough stickers got me a personal pan.

It's also the reason I'm overweight. Damn you, pizzabooks!
posted by disillusioned at 12:32 PM on May 23, 2007

iTunes vouchers?
posted by bonaldi at 12:53 PM on May 23, 2007

These mini-carabiner flashlights are something I would have liked as a teen. You might be able to swing a deal with a local place to have the name of your reading programme imprinted on them too.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2007

a dollar? or, maybe a stamp on a card or some other sort of credit toward a larger prize that could be earned by reading a certain number of books (rather than a small prize for each)
posted by lgyre at 1:30 PM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: That's already the system, lgyre; prizes for reading for 7 hours, 14 hours, and 21 hours. We just don't have the money to give out a prize per book read.
posted by Jeanne at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2007

Pizza is always cool and wonderful for kids.

But it only works up to a certain age.

I remember working in a shipping distribution center that was suffering from, apparently, a "lack of motivation" on the part of some of the workers. Some of the workers suggested that if they received a raise which they had been promised a while back, then they might take more seriously the request to become more effective workers. The manager on duty, a cheerful and somewhat shallow-seeming lady, said, "Well, we can't do that, but maybe if we meet our targets we can have a pizza party!" Needless to say, this was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm. As one of the workers said to me later, "I eat pizza every goddam day."
posted by Deathalicious at 3:10 PM on May 23, 2007

Do you have 7-11s in your area? They sell booklets of free Slurpee vouchers. Slurpees ARE summer, to me.

Seconding the drawstring backpack idea. My teen reading program gave those out--and I still have mine, four years later, and use it in college to go to the gym. I'm so cool!

Frisbees are cheap, even to imprint. That would probably make a good smaller prize.

Any way you could have a box of "free books" that kids could pick from as a prize/along with a prize? I developed quite a collection from this.

One last one I remember from my youth: we'd get a ticket for "one free session" of different types of programs/lessons to which we could bring a friend: rubber-stamping/scrapbooking, crochet/knit/sewing, poker or other board games, I think there may have been a sports related one? Basically friends of the library were available to us (in the library's conference room) for an hour or so appointment that we signed up for, and all supplies were provided. If you know of people with skills/supplies to donate, this could be free. I'm from a small town, though, so I don't know what the safety issues would be with you.

Good luck! Summer reading programs were what I lived for from about age 3 on.
posted by rhoticity at 4:34 PM on May 23, 2007

We don't do small prizes for the teens, because of the lame factor... the bumblebee finger puppets don't cut it. instead, we spend the funds on 1 set of big prizes, and the kids who reach milestones in the game get a certain number of entries into the drawing. You'll appeal more to teens with an escalating chance of winning a single iPod or DS than any cheap giveaway. Teenagers are horrible judges of risk and their optimism and overconfidence only assures them that they'll be the lucky one. Probably too late to do that this year, but you might consider it next year.
posted by ulotrichous at 6:17 PM on May 23, 2007

Do you have a Five Below store there? I had to put together some silly prizes for an event I planned recently, and did great at Five Below finding stuff for grab bags -- things like "retro" candy, kitschy toys, summery stuff, etc. It might be worth a look!
posted by justonegirl at 7:50 PM on May 23, 2007

Slurpee vouchers is the best idea I've heard so far. If you have Jamba Juice in your area, that'd work even better. God, I'd even do a reading group now for Jamba Juice.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:30 PM on May 23, 2007

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