Give Me Five: Reader Recognition – Part One

Give Me Five #6 

by Tommy and Linda Johns 

This is another article in a series of articles that has a simple premise.  The articles will take you less than five minutes to read (that’s when you give ME five!) and each will contain an introduction to a problem or concept pertaining to our work encouraging kids to read.  Each article will also include a list of five ideas, reasons, tools, steps or other helpful items (that’s when I give YOU five!) related to the topic of the article.  While none of these articles will claim to be the last word on any topic, I promise to make each one fun, well researched and way beyond the obvious. (If you have missed the first articles, you can view them at or e-mail me at and I’ll send you a Word© file of the articles or an audio CD of the articles along with a bonus article we handed out at COMO.)  Here is Give Me Five…

 #6 – “Reader Recognition: Part One” 

As the school year draws to a close, there are so many things to take care of – inventory, getting books turned in, thanking your volunteers, weeding and pre-ordering for next year, spending any of this year’s funds that cannot be carried over, and so much more.  One of the things that is looming large this time of year is the REWARD for your school’s super readers.  Whether you do AR, a million words, 25 books, a principal’s reading club, Book-It, or your own reading emphasis, this is the time of year to reward those kids who have spent much of their spare time in a book and in the library.

As an educational/motivational school show presenter, a PTA volunteer, and a former teacher, I have attended a number of these soirees, and have seen some rewards/ recognition events that simply fulfilled the promise that was made in August of “We’ll do something for those who reach their goals.”  I have also seen some that worked well, and a few ideas that really made the readers feel like they accomplished something worthwhile.  We all want to reward and motivate our readers in a way that makes them proud and glad for their efforts.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you reward your readers this year.

  1. Experiences last longer than stuff.  Food is messy and hard to prepare and challenging to get to school.  Bookmarks get lost.  Sharpen a pencil enough times and it’s gone.  But if you give your students something to remember, the experience can last a LONG time!  Instead of a traditional party, allow your top readers to bring their lunch onstage in the lunchroom and have lunch with you and/or the principal at nicely decorated tables.  This will take a few days, but is well worth it!  Bring in a special program (like an educational/ motivational school show presenter!) to do a presentation just for them.  For elementary school, have a fire fighter in full gear or a police officer with a dog come and read a story (Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann comes to mind!) to your reading club.  Invite a local college athlete (from a local college or a local kid who plays at the big state school) to visit and talk about reading.  (I am intentionally leaving out any jokes about athletes and reading here.)  Find someone in the area who values reading and also skateboards, plays in a band or is a local media personality (TV or radio) to talk to the kids and demonstrate/discuss what he or she does.  A karate teacher would LOVE to come and break stuff and talk to or read to the kids.
  2. Reward them publicly.  Widespread public recognition rewards readers and motivates other students.  Instead of taking all of the recipients of the reading reward out of class to go to the party, reward them in a public way.  Lunch as mentioned above can be HUGE for these readers.  Have their names scroll across the library computers in screensaver mode, a different grade for each computer.  Make a PowerPoint presentation with names and photos to cycle through on the closed circuit TVs in the hallways all day long for a week.  Make a photo of the group holding favorite books and blow it up to poster size to display in the hall or the entrance to the Media Center (think ALA’s READ posters).  Get a parent to design and display a big bulletin board with photos of your reading ninjas.  Announce a grade a day on the morning announcements or TV show.  Allow them the chance to get their yearbooks first.  Give these achievers a chance to show off what they have achieved!  And such public recognition encourages and motivates other students to work harder next year.
  3. Start a tradition.  I have been in a number of schools where the super readers get to hang a plaque at the entrance to the school, display their framed and matted photo/poster on the walls of the Media Center or in the halls outside of the MC, or participate in some other annual, permanent recognition of their efforts.  Some schools allow the readers to vote on and place a book in the Media Center with their seal of approval on the outside.  You are going to buy books anyway – why not buy one for each grade as a reward and an encouragement to others?  Be sure to announce and display your own Award Winners Poster that you update every year along with Caldecott and Newbery!
  4. Don’t do it all alone.  So many of us fall into the trap of trying to do the reward alone, or by adding it to the work of the para pros in Media Center.  There are parents, music teachers, art teachers, PE teachers and other talented people who would really enjoy the visibility and the opportunity to be a part of your special event.  Ask the PE teacher to help with some fun games, get the music teacher to sing, play an instrument or teach a song!  Contact yout PTA or PTO volunteer coordinator for the names of people who would like to help with a one-time event or a reading-related event.
  5. Record the reward for posterity.  Get someone to take photos or video of the event,  and then create a PowerPoint or video clip to use on your morning show, a dedicated computer in the media center, or as the pre-show to the last PTA/PTO meeting of the year.  Next month, I will be writing about how to market your reading emphasis all year long, and this idea will be a tool you can use then as well.  Using this year’s reward to motivate next year’s readers helps them to SEE, HEAR, and EXPERIENCE at the beginning of the year the fun that good readers will enjoy at the end.

Take these ideas, add to them, adapt them to fit your situation and discuss your successes on the GLMA listserve!  We want to hear what YOU do to encourage and reward those kids whose love for reading inspires others, including their Media Specialist!

Tommy Johns has been motivating and rewarding readers for almost three decades as a school show presenter and educational entertainment specialist.  He and his wife Linda, a library media specialist in training, co-wrote this article on a long car trip through south Georgia and north Florida.  Find out more at  He welcomes your comments on this column and ideas for future “Give Me Five!” articles.  You can contact him at


Posted on March 17, 2008, in Activities, Ideas, Reading, Recognition and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks so much! Great stuff here. I’m a teacher just embarking on the classes needed to become a media specialist. I went back and read all of your “Give ME Five” articles and bookmarked them for future reference and will be sure to share them with fellow students.

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