Do incentives and awards for reading programs work?

The short answer is YES! (if they’re set up correctly)

The driving criteria for a successful incentive system are:

1. The pathway to success and earning incentives is very clear.

2. Parents and readers must easily understand the system.

3. Awards must meet a reader’s level of proficiency--they can’t be too easy or too difficult.

Almost every summer reading program run by a public library includes incentives. The incentives vary wildly from a milkshake from a local restaurant, an entry to win a new ipad, a t-shirt, etc. Public librarians in particular work hard to create engaging and interesting awards and incentives for readers. 

What exactly the incentive is, a t-shirt, an entry for a contest, a milkshake, etc,  does not matter a lot.  What does matter is that the path to earning the incentive is clear. A good rule of thumb is that if it takes more than 10 seconds to explain the incentive system, it’s too complicated.  

Readers must know where they are now and clearly see the next milestone. If your readers are uncertain about how close or far they are from receiving the next award or incentive, enthusiasm to continue participating will wane very quickly.

Time is of the essence when delivering an award. If a reader can see their award quickly after reaching the threshold, they are more likely to continue earning more and maintain enthusiasm in the program.

How does Reader Zone help with delivering high engagement awards?

We built an awards tool in Reader Zone that allows you, as a reading program organizer, to build awards in a sequence that makes sense to your readers..

You can define the awards, the messaging for the awards and the triggers for when an award is unlocked in the app. You can click here to learn more about how the award system works.

Parents, readers and reading program organizers can see exactly what awards have been earned and the next award. Readers unlock awards and see the image and the message you define.  They can also see the next award very clearly.  

With Reader Zone, you can create an unlimited number of reading groups, each with its own awards. You can easily develop reading groups for all ages and levels of proficiency. It’s simple to build awards at the reading group level and deliver awards that exactly meet a reader where he or she is.  

Libraries have become very clever regarding how they use the award system. Some libraries have begun to upload QR codes that can act as coupons at local businesses, some have designed images that contain messaging and they create messaging that instructs a reader to take an action.

Living in a digital world for our young people, our parents nowadays are accustomed to instant gratification. When they unlock an award in Reader Zone, they experience a feeling of accomplishment and earning, you deliver a positive message and an award that is valued by the reader.