Reading challenges not only encourage sustained reading habits, but they’re infectious too. They spur other students to join their peers in the challenge, creating a community of readers. Yet some reading programs are more impactful than others. In this blog, we’ll discuss the positive benefits of effective reading programs, how to overcome common pitfalls of community-wide reading programs, and five simple steps to put your school district on the path to reading success.
The Impact of Effective Reading Programs
Reading programs are incentivized programs set up through school districts or libraries to encourage students to read. They may present a goal, such as the number of books, minutes, or pages read, that the entire district or community works toward. Reading programs can strengthen literacy skills for the entire community, encouraging kids and adults to read more often while helping them gain rewards.
The importance of reading is widely known. When children read on a regular basis, they acquire bigger vocabularies, faster word recognition, greater phonemic awareness, better literacy skills, improved academic success, and larger knowledge bases. They also develop important critical thinking skills and may even have lower stress levels.
Reading programs support these benefits by making it fun to read and adding incentives to encourage reluctant readers to join in. Reading challenges in Beanstack amplify the success of reading programs even more. Here are some recent case studies of how school districts nationwide are working with Beanstack to uplift reading across their communities:
Atlanta Public School’s RACE2Read challenge: The district set a goal of 10 million minutes read throughout the city and partnered with community organizations, retailers, and city officials to build awareness and source prizes. Beanstack made it easy to track the success of the program and to join forces with Atlanta’s public libraries, so students could log their reading for school and library programs simultaneously. The city surpassed the 10 million minute mark the last two school years, and district officials reported an increase in reading among families as parents helped their children reach their goals.
- Charleston County School District: For the 2022-2023 school year, Charleston County School District set a goal of 15 million minutes read and logged in Beanstack. They amped up the excitement with reading competitions between different schools and grades, and are reaping the rewards. Within the first semester, they saw 90% school usage and more than 6 million minutes read—a number they doubled in the third quarter, putting them on track to hit their lofty 15 million minutes before the end of the school year.
Effective reading programs like these accelerate progress in many areas. Not only do students strengthen their reading and literacy skills, but they also develop stronger academic skills in other subject areas. Some schools, like Joy James Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, also saw students’ math test scores increase—leading to the school’s own rating jumping up from a C to an A.
Strategies for Enhancing Reading Programs' Impact
Reading programs and challenges accelerate student success, but some are more effective than others. Here are a few proven techniques to ensure that all your schools and students buy into your programs and experience their benefits.
Prioritize Free Choice Reading
Children read more often when they have the chance to choose what they read. Many quiz-based reading platforms, like Accelerated Reader, do not prioritize free choice reading. Instead, they tell students what they should be reading, and this can squash interest in reading for fun.
Two ways educators can support independent and free choice reading include providing an expansive library and ensuring independent reading time is built into the curriculum. Beanstack’s intuitive platform makes it easy for students to keep track of the titles they read and log their reading session. Students feel proud as they hit different milestones, while educators can review progress and encourage free choice reading at the same time.
Replace Levels and Quizzes With Badges and Rewards
Often reading programs put too much focus on leveling and quizzes. This approach may make students feel pressure to perform and develop an unfavorable view of reading for pleasure. Beanstack is different. Students can all receive encouragement to achieve attainable goals of minutes or books read, regardless of their reading level. This was a key reason that Charleston County School District chose Beanstack. Christy James, the library and media services specialist from the district, said they wanted a program that would “celebrate all readers and not just be mindless comprehension.”
Simplify Your Tracking Methods
If you want your students and teachers to log reading and participate in your reading program, your platform needs to be easy to use. Outdated methods of reading tracking, like paper logs and signature forms, can be cumbersome and time-intensive for families and staff. Plus, they don’t prepare students for today’s digital age.
Beanstack believes in the importance of literacy and also knows the challenge of managing all the demands of a busy school day. We’ve designed our platform to be as intuitive as possible, both on the administrative side and on the student side. Students and teachers alike can easily log on, record reading, track progress, and collect awards. We have tools that let you track weekly reading progress, log minutes for an entire class, and see targeted data for individual students or classrooms. Our user-friendly administrative and teacher experience substantially increases the success of your reading programs.
Build Community Buy-In
Playing up the social component of reading with community reading goals incentivizes less voracious readers to excel. Building a culture of reading in your schools through your reading program will help more students to participate. Some reading programs focus too strongly on individual readers, and less on the community—failing to level the playing field and involve all students.
Beanstack helps students track their individual progress while strengthening community competition at the same time. With our friends and leaderboards features, readers can compete with each other and discover new books from their friends’ reading logs. When you build a community reading culture in your school district, you see more reading on a daily basis. This, in turn, helps you and your students reap the benefits of reading on a larger scale.
Gamify Your Program
Beanstack’s built-in gamification features are proven to boost motivation and inspire more students to participate. An analysis of readers who use Beanstack found the following:
- Community Goals: Schools that set up community goals see 84% more active participation than schools with no goal.
- Streaks: The streaks feature encourages students to build a daily reading habit. Students with at least a weeklong streak are three and a half times more likely to read than the average student.
- Friends: When students add friends on the platform, they log five times as many minutes as those who don’t.
- Rewards: Readers who are in challenges with rewards or tickets log an average of 19 to 21 minutes per day, and participation rates are 150% higher.
- Mobile App: When students use the mobile app, they log two more hours of reading a month.
- Gamification: Challenge-based gamification in education leads to an increase of 34.75% in student performance, based on a 2020 article from ScienceDirect.
Gamification works, and Beanstack seamlessly incorporates it into reading programs.
Simple Steps to Start Your Reading Program
Getting started with Beanstack is simple.
Step 1: Collaborate With Our Team
When you sign up for Beanstack, you get a school success manager. Meet with them to discuss your reading program goals. They will help you implement best practices for reading success and support you and your team with training and materials to ensure you get the most out of Beanstack.
Step 2: Engage Key Supporters
Get your principals, superintendent, media specialists, teachers, and other stakeholders on board. Encourage their involvement as you create a customized district-wide reading challenge for the school year, and get their input setting a district-wide reading goal and an individual goal for each school.
Step 3: Plan Your Reading Challenge
Decide on a theme for your reading challenge. Take inspiration from the time of year, such as a summer or winter reading, or celebrate a heritage month, like Black History or Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. Change up your incentives to appeal to different grade levels and ages. Use tools like state award reading list challenges with links to the catalog or custom reading list challenges that your superintendent, teacher, or principal set up to engage more students and stakeholders.
Step 4: Create Competition
A little friendly competition goes a long way in making your reading challenge a success. Incentivize classrooms, grade levels and/or school buildings to compete against each other to meet your community goal. Built-in features like leaderboards and friends are also a great way to encourage healthy competition among students.
Step 5: Celebrate Success
Reward your students for their hard work. The badges within Beanstack provide immediate gratification for students. Take it to the next level and add prizes and experiences to increase motivation. Make sure to recognize classes, teachers, and students who perform well. All of this celebration will encourage even greater participation in the future.
Reading programs are key to building literacy skills in students. With Beanstack, your reading programs can be easy and effective. Reach out to our team today to see more of our innovative platform, and start your reading program for your school district with Beanstack.