Beanstack Originals: Announcing the Winter 2023 Short Stacks Reading Challenges

Masthead Waves

As part of our mission to connect schools and students to world-class reading content that sparks a love of reading, we’re unveiling our latest slate of Short Stacks reading challenges coming in winter 2023: Symbols, Secret Codes, and Emojis in January, Heart Smarts in February, and Animals Across America in March.

Get to Know Short Stacks

Short Stacks are fun and informative nonfiction stories with themes and content developed specifically for students reading at the third to fifth grade level. The stories are accessible directly in an engaging reading challenge on the Beanstack app or website, so there’s no extra printing or handouts. Kids unlock fun badges as they track their reading through the stories, and teachers easily check students’ progress and incorporate the stories in the classroom.

For this calendar year, each Short Stacks reading challenge includes four short nonfiction stories centered around a unifying and curiosity-spiking theme. The bite-sized stories, perfect for weekly independent reading assignments or in-classroom activities, are a quick and satisfying read. They each include interesting tidbits about curriculum-aligned topics in history, social studies, and science, and are written for Lexile reading levels 500L–1000L.

“Kids love the fun facts,” says Brandy Kaminski, a third grade teacher in Texas’s Castleberry Independent School District. She often uses Short Stacks as a science or social studies warm-up activity at the start of class, especially to introduce and visualize new academic vocabulary. “They’re perfect tidbits—just enough to get them excited and engaged, and if they want to know more, then I can send them off to get more information at the library.”


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Winter ’23 Short Stacks Up Close

January: Symbols, Secret Codes, and Emojis

This reading challenge’s set of short stories pair with our emoji-themed Winter Reading Challenge: All the Feels. Students uncover fun facts about the history of written communication in four short nonfiction stories, including—you guessed it!—emojis. Topics cover the ancient origins of the alphabet, how humans use symbols for communication, the history of books and paper-like materials, and the most ingenious methods for sending secret messages throughout the ages. Readers are also introduced to grade-level academic vocabulary, historical eras, and geography.


February: Heart Smarts

This Valentine’s Day, students delve into the historical and scientific side of love with Heart Smarts’ four engaging short stories. Each story features a different spin on the heart, including how the heart became a symbol for love, the history of Valentine’s Day, wacky different animal hearts, and adorable (and surprising) animal friendships. Readers glean fun facts while also learning about the functions of the heart in human and animal circulatory systems.


March: Animals Across America

In our ode to the nationwide Read Across America celebration, the Animals Across America Short Stacks focus on the animals, habitats, and food chains in four distinctive regions of the U.S. Students travel to the wild West to learn about grizzly bears and other western creatures, and then to the prairies and forests of the Midwest to read about amazing animals like bison and beavers. The Northeast’s rocky coastline and snowy peaks offer learning opportunities about fox and moose adaptations before the reading adventure ends in the South with fun facts about alligators and other coastal creatures.


Fuel Your Students’ Love of Reading

These short and snappy stories grab students’ interest and help them develop a self-guided reading routine. By incorporating Short Stacks into your school or district’s challenge offerings, you’ll help instill a strong culture of reading among your students. Best of all, these nonfiction story collections give busy teachers engaging, relevant, and curriculum-aligned content to use and discuss in class. Not a Beanstack partner, but want to connect your community to our world-class content and challenges? Reach out today!

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