Most librarians are familiar with reading challenges — the challenge format is a type of reading program that provides a more engaging way to get students to read. Challenges give students a set of goals to accomplish within a defined period of time.

Libraries and schools around the country run all sorts of reading challenges, and there are lots of ways to do it, themes to use, and ways to promote it — if you’re thinking of running one, feel free to take our quiz to see what type of challenge would work best for you.

But reading challenges don’t have to be run by one teacher or media specialist independently. Many K12 educators are finding success with reading challenges at the district level as a way to engage all their schools and students at once. It’s easier to get started than launching multiple individual school/grade level challenges all over the area, and students (and their parents) stay more engaged when they hear it promoted more broadly.

This approach is especially useful for districts that are trying to build a culture of reading. One great example is Atlanta Public Schools – when they first launched their Beanstack reading challenge for the 2018-19 school year they originally challenged students to 2 million minutes. They surpassed that initial goal early on in the challenge and had to increase it to 13 million!

Below are some reasons why running a district-wide reading challenge might be right for you.

1. District-wide reading challenges improve reading proficiency for all ages.

Though some districts focus primarily on student reading ability at certain assessment points, many have found it more important to encourage independent reading for all ages and grade levels. We have long since known that independent reading volume ​is ​the single best predictor of reading achievement in elementary students (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988), and a challenge is a great way to start.

A district-wide reading challenge allows educators to support reading development in a way that is applicable to all students, regardless of their proficiency level.

2. Encourage students to read books on your state booklist.

What are the top awarded books in your state? Get students to read more starting with acclaimed titles, like those of the California Young Reader Medal, Georgia Peach Book Award, or your state’s equivalent.

QUICK TIP: Encourage students to choose books from your list by including additional activities related to each book. For example, you might award extra points to students who submit a 3-sentence biography about the main character of a specific book.

3. You can collect meaningful data…if you use the right tool.

Chances are your teachers and media specialists are already running some type of reading challenges in their classes. Some may be using paper logs, others may be entering data manually into spreadsheets. But how are you measuring progress and outcomes?

Offering a districtwide reading challenge gives teachers the benefit of a more organized system and the resources they need to meet their goals. It also gives administrators the opportunity to glean meaningful data that can be used for benchmarking and evaluating the curriculum.

Using an online solution is a modern and engaging way to make participation easy for both teachers and students, and it can give school and district leaders more insight into student reading activity.

QUICK TIP: Tools like Beanstack allow you to use your own rostering/SSO tool for students to participate in reading challenges. This way, when it comes to reviewing the data you can analyze student activity as a whole or break it down further by grade level, school, classroom, etc.

4. Most importantly: reading challenges keep reading fun.

Remember, reading should be fun for students! We know that reading outcomes improve when students do more independent reading, and they’re more likely to read in their downtime if they truly enjoy it.

Reading challenges keep reading fun by promoting achievement without the added stress of taking a quiz at the end. A challenge can be aimed toward a community-wide goal, like 1 million minutes total across the district. Or give students an encouragement boost by fostering healthy competition between schools. Or why not run a challenge that does both?

If you want to create a reading challenge for your school district or school, take our quiz to see what type of challenge we’d recommend, and see our challenge design lookbook for some inspiration on themes.

Whatever type of reading challenge you do, it will be great — the only way to do it wrong is to not do one at all.


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