Resolutions and Reading Challenges

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.

An ELA teacher who completed the 2016 reading challenge

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.

We papered a wall with the challenge guidelines.

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.

The 2017 challenge wall

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.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

1 reply

  1. I love the reading challenge idea too, but I wanted to gamify it even further. I decided to take categories that would get students out of their comfort zones and create a bingo card from them. Once students (or staff!) fill in 5 squares in a row (they are required to use a different book for each category), they come to the library for a small prize (lanyard, keychain, temporary tattoo, etc) and are entered into a drawing for a larger prize (travel coffee tumbler, book, Barnes & Noble gift card, etc). Several of our English teachers are offering extra credit for each bingo as well. They can keep playing after bingo is achieved, so they may read a total of 24 books for the challenge. We are running it for most of our second semester. If it’s a hit, we’ll bring it back next year!

    Here’s a link to our rules & bingo card for more info:
    Feel free to modify to use at your school, but please give us a shout on on Twitter or Instagram (@chsbookmasters) if you do!

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