5 Tricks to Keep Kids Reading During COVID

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As schools shift to a hybrid learning model, educators and librarians are trying to figure out how to encourage kids to keep reading at home. For students who attend class in-person, some of the traditional methods still work, but creating and maintaining a reading community from a distance is an ongoing challenge.


With distance learning on the horizon for the foreseeable future, digital reading challenges offer a bridge between school and home. In this piece, we’ll explore some innovative ways to engage students at home alongside a reading challenge, whether you use Beanstack or another method.

5 Tricks to Keep Kids Reading During COVID

1. Embrace Digital Materials

Embrace digital materials - images of person in a space suit reaching toward a book on the moon.

If we want students to read at home, we have to provide them the materials they need – unfortunately, that’s a bit more complicated during COVID. For students who aren’t coming to the school building to check out physical books, digital materials can be a lifesaver. Most mobile phones and tablets have reading apps that students can use to access e-books, audiobooks, and even digital versions of graphic novels.


Zoobean’s app, Beanstack, integrates automatically with the e-book platform Epic!, making it easy for students to participate in your school’s reading challenge by tracking minutes and titles read.

2. But Don’t Forget About Paper Entirely

But Don’t Forget About Paper Entirely - Images of a Badge Book with wings

With so much of the learning experience going digital during COVID, maintaining a physical connection to reading is important for students. We love paper activities like allowing them to write their own alternate ending to a book or drawing what they think a character would look like in person.

To support the transition to distance learning in 2020, Zoobean created themed Badge Books – real, physical books that are full of fun activities like these. Just like the Beanstack app comes equipped with digital badges and rewards, Badge Books allow students to participate in challenges and reward themselves with sticker badges.

3. Encourage Students to Motivate Each Other

Encourage Students Motivate Each Other - images of three students, with speech bubbles to indicate virtual communication

Students are used to reading alongside their classmates, which has social, emotional, and academic benefits. Unfortunately, in a hybrid learning model students face a lack of social development and an inability to collaborate with their peers. Think of ways to allow students to engage with one another - for example, during your next virtual class, try a popcorn-style game where everyone has to share a book title with a randomly assigned letter A-Z.

One way we like to get students motivated to read again is through Beanstack’s Friends and Leaderboard feature. Students can find new favorite books based on what their friends are reading, and see the progress their friends are making each day toward the reading challenge. The leaderboard helps students feel like part of a reading community, and when they do have time to chat – either in person or on Zoom – they already know what their friends have been reading.

4. Bond Over a Shared Book

Bond Over a Shared Book - image of a student on a laptop, supersized graphics of icons and text illustrate that he is reading and writing book reviews

Reading challenges are all about building a community of readers, so why not take it to the next level and read the same book? In Broward County, students are reading award-winning books from the Sunshine State Youth Read Award for their themed challenge, encouraging students to bond over shared titles and favorite characters.


Beanstack also offers reading challenges for a single book, like the “New Kid” by Jerry Craft Challenge. When students have all read the same book, they have an automatic conversation starter, whether they are working together digitally or face-to-face.

5. Celebrate Reading Achievements

Celebrate Reading Achievements - illustration of a person holding up a digital screen, representative of online classroom environments

Rewarding students for their academic achievement can be challenging during COVID, when many students aren’t receiving acknowledgement beyond the digital sphere. This year, Atlanta Public Schools took an innovative approach to motivate student readers from a distance. When students met a reading challenge goal, their school would deliver a yard sign to their home. Posting a yard sign is an inspiring way to not only acknowledge the hard work of top readers but also encourage classmates to keep working toward their own goals. This public display shows students that the whole community cares about reading.


We love the Atlanta Public Schools yard signs so much that we created our own yard sign that other educators can use to celebrate their students. Click the link below to download the yard sign template.

Get the yard sign!

Click here to download a copy of the yard sign design.

COVID poses many challenges for students and educators, but the biggest challenge might be lack of interpersonal connection. These tips and tricks, when used in conjunction with your Beanstack reading challenge, will keep kids reading at home, and provide a much-needed tether to the wider school community.

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