Embrace the Power of Winter Reading Challenges

student reading a book in the snow
Masthead Waves

As the winter season settles in and the festivities come to an end, readers may find themselves lacking motivation and feeling isolated. The cold weather in certain parts of the country also means more time spent indoors. So, how can you as an educator or public library staff member make a difference? One solution could be to introduce a winter reading challenge that encourages reading and also fosters community involvement. Let’s dig in and take a closer look at what a winter reading challenge entails and how to successfully run one.


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What Is a Winter Reading Challenge?

Most families, schools, and libraries are familiar with the concept of summer reading programs which aim to keep students engaged in reading during their summer break to prevent learning loss. Similar in nature, a winter reading challenge offers an opportunity for students to stay on track throughout the school year. A winter challenge takes advantage of shorter days and cooler weather, which often leads people to spend more time indoors. This creates the perfect environment for readers of all ages to immerse themselves in reading and further enhance their learning experience.


Winter Reading Challenges in Schools

In a school setting, a winter reading challenge can jump-start the new year after the holiday break. This can be a challenging time to teach, as students may lack motivation and concentration after a length of time away from school. However, by introducing a reading challenge, you can inspire students to continue their reading journey. Some schools even choose to launch these challenges before the winter break, allowing students to maintain their momentum and stay on track over break—making it easy to pick back up when the school year resumes.


Winter Reading Challenges in Libraries

To combat the decrease in library visitors during the winter months, libraries can entice people with a winter reading challenge. As the excitement of summer programs fades and patrons get back to their day-to-day schedules, community engagement can often drop. By introducing a winter reading challenge, libraries can attract more visitors and encourage them to explore the library and its valuable resources and programs.


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How to Run a Winter Reading Challenge

If you’re interested in hosting a winter reading challenge, there are some specific things to do to set it up for success. Consider these tips:


Define the Purpose 

Before starting a winter reading challenge, it’s important to define the purpose behind it. Are you aiming to promote literacy, encourage reading for pleasure, or build a sense of community among readers? Clearly identifying the purpose will help you plan and structure the challenge effectively.


Set Clear Goals

Determine what you want to achieve with the winter reading challenge. Are you aiming for a certain number of books to be read, a specific genre to be explored, or a target audience to be engaged? Setting clear goals will provide direction and motivation for participants. Once you know the type of challenge, set a goal. Make the goal something your readers can attain, but also something that will require some work to attain. A school-wide or library district goal that encourages collaborative participation in reaching a certain number of minutes can be quite motivating. 


Build Your Timeline

The promotional timing of your challenge is key, especially around the holidays. Giving readers enough time to register or get enrolled before the big holiday rush will help minimize distractions. When setting the start and end dates for your winter challenge for schools, it’s best to avoid launching during the holiday school break, so consider whether pre-holiday or post-holiday makes the most sense. 


Choose a Theme

Themes for reading challenges help generate excitement. Selecting a theme for your winter reading challenge can make it more engaging and exciting. Consider themes like “Winter Wonderland Reads,” “Cozy Mysteries for Cold Nights,” or “Books to Warm Your Heart.” A theme adds a fun element to the challenge and can help participants discover new books within a specific genre or category. Additionally, consider the time of year and decide if you want to have a winter animal mascot or use the weather as part of your theme. Encourage your readers to cozy up to a good book as the weather gets colder.


Decide on the Challenge Type

Next, decide what type of challenge would work best for your readers. A few options include:

  • Tracking the total number of minutes, pages, or books read. 
  • Providing participants with reading lists or recommendations related to the theme of the challenge. These lists can include books by diverse authors, different genres, or specific topics that align with the theme. Offering a variety of options will cater to different reading preferences and encourage participants to explore new books.
  • Offering the challenge as a fundraiser that will earn money for your library while encouraging reading. Check out our fundraiser information to see how that works. 

Create a Promotional Plan

Get the word out about your reading program to ensure maximum participation. Without effective promotion, you’ll struggle to attract interested readers. Check out these six ideas to incorporate into your promotional material:

    1. Hang posters and signs around your library or school.
    2. Create a social media schedule to engage and inform your target audience.
    3. Insert an article in your school, library, or local newsletter to spread the word about your program.
    4. Reach an even wider audience with a well-timed newspaper article.
    5. Generate buzz with a TV or radio spot on your local news station.
    6. Promote the challenge on your website and in email communications.

Remember, promotion is not just a one-time effort. Keep up the momentum before and during the challenge, and don’t forget to follow up afterward to share data and results with everyone.


Determine Prizes and Incentives

To further motivate participants, consider offering incentives or rewards for achieving reading goals. Incentives add an element of excitement and encourage participants to actively participate in the challenge. Beanstack’s in-app incentives are great, and you can make them even more effective with prizes readers can earn. Consider gift certificates, prize baskets, and free books to give to the top readers. Choose top readers at the end of the challenge, or make it, even more, motivating by having a weekly prize or a large grand prize drawing that everyone can enter.


Track Challenge Progress

Implement a tracking system to help participants keep track of their reading progress. Tracking can be in the form of a reading log, a digital platform like Beanstack, or a community forum where participants can share their reading updates. Tracking progress helps participants stay motivated and also creates a sense of accomplishment as they see their reading goals being achieved. 


Engage Your Community

Finally, keep the interest going with on-site activities. Themed parties at the library, assemblies at school, and group incentives along the way will keep readers engaged and active in your winter reading challenge. Encourage participants to share their thoughts, recommendations, and book reviews with the community. This can be done through online forums, social media groups, or even virtual book clubs. Creating a sense of community among participants fosters a supportive and interactive environment where readers can connect, discuss books, and inspire each other.


Celebrate Success

At the end of the winter reading challenge, celebrate the success of participants. Highlight their achievements, share their book recommendations, and acknowledge their dedication to reading. This can be done through virtual ceremonies, online showcases, or even a blog post featuring the top participants and their favorite books from the challenge.


Tips for Readers

Preparing for a reading challenge isn’t just for the library or school. Participants can also prepare themselves for success. Consider these ideas:


Make a book wish list: Line up books you’ll want to read during the challenge so you never run out of a book to read next.


Set a goal: Set a personal goal to read a certain number of pages or minutes each day.


Team up: Grab a partner to encourage one another to stay on track and to discuss your books with.


Set a time: Set aside a specific time each day when you want to read, so you will begin building a habit.


Keep books handy: Keep a book in your bag or an ebook on your phone, so you’ll always have something accessible to read.

The Benefits of Winter Reading Challenges

A winter reading challenge has many benefits for both schools and libraries, including: 


Encourages More Independent Reading

Depending on where you are located, winter may be a time when kids are inside more. When there’s a reading challenge going on, they’re more prone to choose to read. A winter reading challenge can give kids the incentive to pick reading over other indoor activities like video games and screen time. Productivity, education, and enjoyment will go hand in hand with this choice to read, in addition to helping students develop a passion for reading. 


If the challenge is through the public library and includes adults, the whole family may be enticed to spend time reading. On average, people who spent time in a winter reading challenge read 10 minutes more a day than those who didn’t, adding up to over an hour more reading a week!


Builds Healthy Reading Habits

By participating in a winter reading challenge, individuals can cultivate reading habits that will carry over into the summer months when school is out. This proactive approach can help prevent the summer slide and ensure continuous learning throughout the year.


Boosts Year-Round Academic Performance

Numerous research studies have established a clear correlation between independent reading and improved academic performance. By promoting more reading through your winter reading challenge, you will witness enhanced academic achievement throughout the entire year.


Additional Benefits of Reading

Reading for an extended period has advantages that go beyond just the act of reading. Some of these benefits may include: 

  • Reduced stress and greater relaxation
  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Expanded vocabulary and improved writing abilities
  • Enhanced knowledge
  • Increased imagination and creativity

By participating in a reading challenge, students can set goals for themselves and track their progress as they work toward achieving them. This not only helps them develop a habit of reading regularly but also fosters a love for reading that extends beyond the challenge itself. Additionally, reading challenges can introduce students to new genres and authors, expanding their literary horizons and exposing them to diverse perspectives and ideas. So, whether it’s a summer reading challenge or a yearlong challenge, engaging in a reading challenge can have a transformative impact on students’ reading habits and overall academic success.


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How Beanstack Will Enhance Your Winter Reading Challenge

As you plan for your winter reading challenge, make sure you have the right tools. With Beanstack, you can streamline the setup and tracking of your reading challenge and you will be provided with promotional materials, including themed promotional materials, in one easy-to-use interface. Plus, our gamification features are designed to ignite excitement and engagement among readers. Think of Beanstack as your ultimate “turn-key reading challenge,” allowing you to focus on interacting with your readers and promoting the challenge.


Get your community reading this winter with our 2024 Winter Reading Challenge, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group, entitled “Where We Come From.” This themed reading challenge encourages readers to explore the topics of identity, history, and family. With this unique focus, you can help your readers feel less isolated and more connected in the winter season.


Get Started With Beanstack Today

Beanstack is the ultimate solution for running a successful winter reading challenge, but its benefits extend beyond just the winter season. With year-round templated reading challenges for all ages, Beanstack is a powerful tool that fosters a strong reading culture in both libraries and school districts. Looking to learn more? Book a demo today, or get a quote to get started with Beanstack.




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