March Book Madness: A Competition of Novels

Let the Games Begin

Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, Championship… every March I hear these buzzwords in my library. The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament livens up the room. Teens huddle around smartphones watching the last minutes of nail-biters. Others share bracket predictions. I’m energized by it all. Several years ago I merged my love of this sporting event with my drive to get high schoolers reading. This year we’re hosting our seventh annual March Book Madness in the library.

A step stool with 16 young adult books stacked on top next to a basketball and a poster of a bracket of 16 books

Reading Roots

Amid the rise of technology and database instruction in school libraries, educators sometimes minimize the push for reading. I’m on board with the modern librarian’s role as media specialist. I teach information literacy lessons, guide students on navigating the databases, and highlight tools such as Google citations and Gale’s digital notes feature. The fact remains, though, that reading is the foundation needed for mastering any digital skill. As Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry of The Reading League states, “Literacy… empowers individuals…the currency of the 21st century will be built on the foundation of skilled reading. Students who can read well will have a place at the table of opportunity” (Butters). Reading is important. It’s crucial to boost it even as we embrace the latest advances.

Small paper cutouts of book covers

March Book Madness: the Details

Every February I bring a stack of young adult books home from my library and get to work. I read as many books as I can and then create a list of 16 novels. Once I finalize the selections, I add them to my bracket, create Google Forms for the first eight faceoffs, and start planning the month. I display a large color poster and two smaller letter sized brackets, order fun giveaways, and print out basketball riddles. This year, I contacted our Broadcast students, who came to the library and interviewed me about the event. 

A Google form with the photos and summaries of two books

As the books advance to the next level, I continue creating Google Forms with the two books in the running and post a link with an updated bracket on a Canvas announcement. For this year’s tournament, I made small paper cutouts of the book covers so I could update the poster bracket. Once the champion is announced, I collect all the emails from the weeks of voting, enter them into a raffle, and choose one student and one staff winner. Each is awarded a winning book and a gift card to a bookstore. 

A mug filled with basketball pens, basketball bracelets, and stickers

It’s a Win-Win

My ideal vision for this tournament is a schoolwide initiative. I would publicize the list of books in September and encourage students and staff to read as many as they could by March. By the time March Book Madness came around, people would be excited to see familiar books in the running. But in the real world of teenagers, that’s not easy. For now, I introduce dozens of students to books they otherwise may never hear about, spark their curiosity, talk about stories and characters, and highlight the creative book cover art that’s out there. Then I happily watch as April circulation numbers rise.

A dark wood book display of young adult books


Butters, Jeff. “The importance of reading and the science behind it.” The Spectator, 05/05 2023ProQuest; eLibrary,

The top of a Google Form for March Book Madness

Author: Karin Greenberg

Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.

Categories: Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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