Summer Scratch Tickets for Teens!

Originally posted on Teen Services Underground 

This summer I completely changed things up for the teen program with scratch tickets! I had bookmarked an excellent post from 5 Minute Librarian and decided (kinda last minute) to just go for it. My numbers for Teen Summer Reading have been pretty steady over the past few years – 59, 60, 61, 60. So I figured I didn’t have much to lose by changing things up.

Teen Summer Challenge

I changed the title of the program from Teen Summer Reading to Teen Summer Challenge – cuz the biggest change was that there wasn’t technically any reading involved. This was also the biggest “negative” about the program. I had a few teens who seemed almost mad at me because they wanted to log their pages of reading! I knew this was going to be an issue but I was honestly surprised at the reaction of some of them. They did come around in the end as they won a few prizes. I had gone over and over in my mind to figure out a way to do both, but I decided to just keep it simple and stick with scratch tickets. And I also knew that they teens who read are going to read no matter what. There were a couple parents who made comments about the non-reading part, but the majority of the comments were very positive and many of the teens came back almost every day!


  • Increase teen summer program participation
  • Reach teens who may not normally come to the library, participate in programs or check out materials
  • Increase circulation
  • Give teens a reason to visit the library more often instead of logging reading online from home
  • Keep things simple and fun for teens and library staff!


Teens & tweens in grades 7-12 (this included teens going into 7th grade or who had just graduated) could choose a scratch ticket if they checked out 1 or more items. I did not restrict what they checked out, though I had considered doing books only or creating categories for books, movies, audio books, etc. Since it was a new program, I wanted to just see what happened. I had a sign-in sheet and they had to fill in their name, grade and the date EVERY TIME the got a ticket. I did not have a program registration sheet. Teens could only get one ticket per day.


I created a prize board similar to the one they used in 5 Minute Librarian (1st post)  and decided to color-code my prizes and tickets. My original idea was that the teens could look at the board and see what prizes were available and which ones they would like to try to win. Then they could choose the corresponding colored ticket. This sort of ended up getting lost in the shuffle. The YA collection is on the adult level and so they checkout at the adult circ desk. At that point, the staff would ask them if they wanted to choose a scratch ticket since they checked out a book and they would just randomly choose a color – this was probably my fault for not completely explaining this to the adult staff! But it didn’t really end up mattering all that much.


Big Prizes: I went with gift cards and giant candy for the bigger prizes. (I have to say that I will probably do smaller amounts next year.) These prizes were specifically added to the scratch ticket – so they would scratch the ticket and it would say “Barnes & Noble Gift Card” or GIANT CANDY” (which they could choose from a basket.)

Small Prizes: If they scratched “SMALL PRIZE,” they could choose from a basket of stuff. The small prizes were mostly candy and dollar store stuff. They seemed to like the prizes that were more “kid-ish” like eyeball hand puppets. But other prizes included: frisbees, dollar store USB cords, chargers, phone cases, audio splitters, notebooks, pens, key chains, ring pops, pop rocks, pokemon card packs, fidget spinners (Dollar Tree had them!) and a bunch of other random things. I just replenished the basket as the summer progressed.

“Loser Prize”: OK, so this sounds kinda harsh, but it’s all in good fun! If teens scratched a “SORRY, NO LUCK” ticket, they could fill in their info on the ticket and enter it to win a $50 Amazon gift card. This prize was lovingly and ironically dubbed the “Loser Prize” because it was actually the best prize but you could only win if you “lost” on your scratch ticket.

Scratch Tickets

I ended up totally copying the scratch tickets from 5 Minute Librarian (they just looked cool!) I created a similar looking template in Canva and then printed them out on different colored card stock. I also used the scratch-off stickers, which were super easy to use and not very expensive. I purchased them from Amazon. I started off trying to figure out the ratio of how many of each type I would need. Obviously each large prize on the board would only have one ticket. These were also spaced out throughout the summer. I would have one or two winning scratch tickets in the envelope each week. These I usually marked on the back with a super tiny black dot so that I could at least tell it apart from the others. Then I tried to do a 2/3 non-winner, 1/3 small prize winner ratio, which kind of became difficult to keep track of as the summer progressed since they all looked the same once they went into the envelope at the desk. The staff would let me know if there seemed to be too many non-winners and then I would add more small prize winning tickets.








All in all, I think it was a really successful program! Yes, there were a few teens who wanted that challenge of reading and logging pages, but I know that they will read no matter what. And those teens came back often enough to get scratch tickets, so I think they got over it. We ended up with 104 individual participants who scratched a total of 386 tickets. The adult staff said they really enjoyed the program because it was fun for the teens and for them. They even put out a little bell that they would ding when a teen won a prize! They also said they were able to meet more of the teens and get to know them a little more (which made me a little jealous, since my office is in the children’s room and this is one of the hardest parts of not being near the Teen Space for me.) Our July YA circulation was up by 500 over last July – even though we did not make the teens check out YA material only for a scratch ticket.

It was a little time consuming initially to figure out how everything would work and to make the tickets and prize board, but it was still very simple and easy for teens and staff. It also required zero commitment on the part of the teens, which I think was probably one of the most appealing qualities of the program! I might add in a separate reading challenge next summer for those teens who want it with separate prizes. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to switch things up and increase participation. I will definitely be doing this again next year!

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