Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Readers as Hunters....

First-time YA author Kay Cassidy believes in paying it forward, which led her to create an unusual thank-you for an Indiana librarian who introduced her to some teen titles that she loved: the Great Scavenger Hunt contest. The monthly contest, which she began last April, consists of a book-related trivia challenge for kids, administered by librarians—and offers a chance for both to win free books.
Kay Cassidy."I was looking for a way to keep kids reading other than by writing books," says Cassidy. "I thought it would be fun to do a trivia contest and contacted a few of my friends." Initially she did outreach to a few librarians she knew, who posted information about it on their state listservs. From there, the contest took off. Young people between the ages of eight and 19 scavenge to find the answers to 10 trivia questions about a middle-grade or YA book that they have read from among the 350 titles in the program. The tests are administered by the 500 participating librarians. Children, aka hunters, who get eight answers right are entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate for the bookstore of their choice. The librarian who submitted the winner's name gets to choose five free books for their library.
L. to r.: last November's Scavenger Hunt winner Hannah Smith from Lapel High School in Lapel, Ind.; Cassidy; and winning librarian Kim Murdock, also of Lapel High School.To encourage busy librarians and authors to participate, Cassidy created a Web site where they can sign up and get more information. So far, she says, participating libraries are split evenly between school and public libraries. The former are using the Great Scavenger Hunt to encourage reading during the school year, while public libraries see it as an opportunity to promote summer reading. Only six Canadian libraries have signed on to date, but Cassidy is working to boost that figure as well as participation in the U.S.
When she launched the program, Cassidy started with New York Times bestsellers and Newbery and Printz Award winners. One year later the contest has grown to include debut novels like her own recently released The Cinderella Society (Egmont USA). Each month Cassidy adds eight new titles, with related questions, and sends out an e-newsletter to librarians that highlight recent additions. Some librarians, she notes, are printing out the newsletters and posting them to let kids know about new books.
Saying "I'm in it for the long haul," Cassidy continues to fund and operate the entire program herself. In the coming year she looks forward to seeing more kids reading and more libraries signing on for the Great Scavenger Hunt—and maybe getting an assistant.

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