Creating and Sustaining Reading Challenges: Lessons from 2020

Masthead Waves

Over the last several months, educators across the country faced an overwhelming amount of challenges, and yet, you all continued to move forward and do best by your students. For this, we simply want to say thank you.


We also want to call out the positive moments that our educators experienced, which is why in December, we held a district roundtable. During this discussion, five of our district partners - Atlanta Public Schools (GA), Broward County Public Schools (FL), Hawaii Department of Education, Orange County Public Schools (FL), and Pasadena Independent School District (TX) - shared their experiences running district-wide reading challenges during the year of COVID. Each district offered insights into lessons learned and highlighted the successes their students, educators, and communities achieved. 


In this piece, we’ll explore how these districts were able to engage their students in reading challenges and build a culture of reading in their communities.


Orange County Public Schools

A turnkey tool, with efficient training, makes it easy for school staff to buy in.

With this school year demanding more from teachers than ever before, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) understood that they would need a tool that was seamless and intuitive in order to run a district-wide reading challenge. To support their teachers and build buy-in for Beanstack, they built a Canvas site that hosts training videos, how-to guides, newsletters, social media posts, and 1:1 support. Throughout the school year, librarians and teachers can access the Canvas hubs, chat with district leaders, and easily implement Beanstack in their schools and engage their students to read.


OCPS also uses Beanstack because the reading challenges can be automatically available to all of their students, eliminating the need for teachers to take on extra work. With the use of e-books increasing five times, Beanstack also allows students to log their e-reading, providing data for school librarians on the circulation of their collections.



Atlanta Public Schools

Don’t do it alone - build partnerships with community organizations.

Building a community-wide reading challenge was no easy feat for Atlanta Public Schools (APS), but with the support of local organizations, APS has been able to push their superintendent’s “Race2Read” Challenge far beyond classroom walls. Organizations such as the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta Speech School, and MARTA, have partnered with APS to provide funding, books, and prizes for students and schools. With the increased funds, APS has been able to promote Race2Read on billboards, radio shows, and ads in the Atlanta airport. They’ve expanded their social media push and have even had their reading challenge retweeted by the Atlanta Falcons! 

With students learning remotely this year, APS created a yard sign and social media campaign to celebrate their readers. Students across the city are seeing not just their peers read, but also parents, families, community members, and local celebrities. With a focus on reading for pleasure - and not for assessment or scores - APS has successfully kept Race2Read running for over three years now!



Pasadena Independent School District

Keep it fresh, keep it fun.

A key component of Pasadena Independent School District’s (PISD) success was creating new challenges every six weeks. Working with Beanstack’s dedicated School Success Team, PISD has built out challenges that each have different themes and goals. Throughout the year, students can join challenges, read-alouds, and Battle of the Books competitions. With the end of each six-week challenge, students are rewarded with prizes, parties, and books!


The accessibility of Beanstack also allows librarians to easily push out each of the new challenges, further building buy-in and engagement from adults and students alike.



Broward County Public Schools

Partner with your local libraries.

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) knows that reading shouldn’t happen just during the school year. That’s why they’ve collaborated with Broward County Library and enabled Beanstack’s tandem feature, making it easy for students to sync their school and library Beanstack accounts. Throughout the summer, students can participate in Broward County Library’s summer reading challenge; when they go back to school in the fall, BCPS can celebrate their summer reading and use the data provided to continue to create challenges that meet the needs and interests of their students.



Hawaii Department of Education

Put students first with culturally relevant challenges.

With over 257 public schools in their state-wide school district, the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) had to grapple with creating a challenge that would appeal to and engage all of their students. Through Beanstack, HIDOE designed their reading challenge - #808Reads - to be a virtual field trip. Every student, every teacher, and every school staff member has automatic access to the challenge, made even easier with a state-wide standard login. As participants go through the reading challenge, they explore different islands of Hawaii. As they gain virtual  badges, they earn rewards such as a virtual helicopter ride of the canyons or attending a performance by local music groups. By putting their students first, HIDOE has been able to build a community of reading throughout the islands of Hawaii.



This piece highlights only a fraction of the wonderful work our district partners are doing. We encourage you to check out the full recording of the roundtable here and hope that the teachings from our district partners will help you run your own reading challenges in your school community. If you are not already a partner of ours, feel free to reach out and learn more about how Beanstack could support your students. 

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Click here to watch a full recording of the roundtable.

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