January is the season for resolutions and reading challenges. I resolve to answer emails this year instead of thinking really hard about answering them, getting distracted, and never giving them another thought, and I’ve chosen a reading challenge focusing on diversity. Last year I chose Pop Sugar’s challenge for myself, and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge for students. The Pop Sugar 2017 challenge is pretty awesome, and even though I didn’t complete last year’s, I am a better person for what I read during that challenge. For students, we felt like a large challenge might start out feeling like defeat. We really liked Mrs. Darcy’s list because we could customize the challenge length (6 books instead of 12) and keep all the awesome topic choices.
To promote the reading challenge we collaborated with ELA teachers who were willing to offer extra credit to those who completed the challenge. To help students keep track of their progress, we printed challenge forms for them to fill out as they finished books. Before they could submit a completed challenge form to their teachers, students had to get a parent/guardian signature on their forms. Once the teachers had logged the extra credit, they would send the student to the library with the completed form. There we would take photo booth style picture to hang on the reading challenge wall.
We had a fair amount of success with our reading challenge, but there were some issues:
- We weren’t sure how long to make the challenge. Most challenges are meant for the whole year, but we only had until the end of the school year.
- With testing schedules, we didn’t want the challenge to feel like a burden.
- It was hard to maintain excitement about the challenge.
- The challenge morphed into a race, which is okay, but not really the spirit of the challenge.
These are pretty minor issues, but we decided to tweak our reading challenge plan for 2017:
- Instead of picking one challenge, we are promoting a wide variety of challenges, because it really doesn’t matter which challenge inspires students.
- We are less concerned with them finishing a challenge, and more interested in nudging them to explore and read books they don’t know they love yet.
- As students finish books, we’re asking them to write a review for our OPAC, create a zine page review, or record a book talk.
Looking for a book challenge for yourself or a class? I started to create a list when I found Nicole Hewitt’s blog Feed Your Fiction Addiction. If you haven’t seen it, her curated list is the one list to rule them all. I reached out to Ms. Hewitt to compliment her work, and make sure she was okay with me sharing it. Is anyone else incorporating book challenges in the school library, or maybe challenging other librarians to participate in a book challenge?
Author: Mica Johnson
I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.