There are all kinds of reading challenges out there, some are genre-specific while others are truly arbitrary. No matter how the challenge is designed, the ultimate goal is to help you read more and that is always a good thing.
Even for those you love reading, it can be easy to let it fall by the wayside. This is certainly true for me! Life gets busy. Dirty dishes have piled up in the sink. The kids need help with this or that. Admittedly, my phone seems to scream at me!! “Pick me up! I have important notifications you must read NOW!”
Before I know it, I’ve run out of hours in the day for reading. If I try to read a little before bed, I’m too tired to finish even a page. It’s alarmingly easy to let it slip. When I realize I haven’t read a book for fun in a month, I am shocked and disappointed.
We all want to read more. Yet to achieve this goal we need something more quantifiable. That is where a reading challenge can help – you’re not just trying to fulfill some vague goal of “read more.”
Family Five Book Talk
One of the easiest ways we have found to assure that my husband and I read more is to give a book talk at our monthly Family Five Share. For years we had expected the kids to share what they are reading. Then one day Jeffrey asked, “Why do we call this a Family Five Share when you and Dad don’t share? Shouldn’t it be called Kids Share?” Light bulb – of course!
One of my favorite reading challenges is reading banned books. Not only is it important, it is usually pretty interesting; we all know that boring stuff doesn’t get banned. The whole idea is to have fun and read some books that censors have tried to keep off the shelves. There isn’t one specific list to work from, but there are many different resources you can check out for ideas:
- The ALA’s lists of frequently challenged books. There are multiple lists split up by author, year, decade, and a separate list for classics, so there are a lot of options from all different genres.
- GoodReads has several listopia lists on the subject — this is particularly helpful for identifying books you already have on your shelves if you are a user of the site.
- The Banned Books Week Facebook Page is great about reporting current information on bans and challenges.
Classic Great Books
Homeschool families that follow the classical model for education in no doubt are familiar with the Great Books or classics suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. She has also published a companion guide for parents, The Well-Educated Mind.
“In high school, the classical student actively engages with the ideas of the past and present — not just reading about them, but evaluating them, tracing their development, and comparing them to other philosophies and opinions.” For those interested, Bauer provides a list of Great Books for each year of study; the ninth grade list is the shortest, the twelfth-grade list the most complex.
If you enjoy the Young Adult genre, you’ll love the 365 Days of YA by Epic Reads. “We have compiled a *full* reading list, with book recommendations for every season, month, week and day of 2015.”
Young-adult fiction or young adult literature, often abbreviated as YA, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen.
The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of fiction genres. Subject matter can be controversial, however – parental caution is advised.
The American Library Association also publishes a list of the best Young Adult books each year. It is a general list of fiction and nonfiction titles selected for their proven or potential appeal to the personal reading tastes of the young adult.
POP Sugar’s Challenge
This is a fun one! The writers at PopSugar have created a reading challenge that is not only fun, but will certainly diversify your reading. “From a book your mom loves to a book with a love triangle, we’re giving you a wide range of reads, spanning eras and genres, instead of specific books.” This list of 50 books (or technically 52 since one item is to read a trilogy) includes a checklist to make it easy – simply print it out and check each off as you go.
On Goodreads a short time ago, I read a review whereby the reader stated, “I read this book as part of my personal challenge to read a book from every ten places of the Dewey Decimal System.” My first impression was, “Really?! Why?” Then as I thought about it more, I realized how this one could broaden my horizons and force me to read books about things I wouldn’t normally choose.
Unfortunately, I fear the challenge will be dominated by the western world. To elaborate, the 400s are the language category. The 490s consist of pretty much every non-European language. Many European languages get 10 numbers all of their own, while all languages of East and Southeast Asia are in 495.
This brings me to my next challenge …
Diversity on the Shelf
For too long it has been far too easy to read nothing but books by white people — and maybe not even notice that is what you were doing. “The aim of Diversity on the Shelf Challenge is add diversity to your bookshelf by reading books by authors of color and/or about a main character of color.”
People are taking to social media to express their desire for diversity in literature: more young adult novels starring protagonists of color, more multicultural writers recognized for their work, more female superheroes in fantasy, fewer stereotypical portrayals of minority characters in fiction — I don’t have to keep going. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is trending.
Whether you have fallen into this trap or you’ve been adding diversity to your shelves for years, it never hurts to support more authors of color. As homeschoolers, we can add to the richness of our cultural geography and history studies by including books from the cultures we are studying.
Reading a book every week of the year is a challenge I have taken upon myself for many years. I haven’t always succeeded, but it is a fun way to keep me motivated.
I utilize Goodreads to keep track of the books I have read, am currently reading, as well as those I want to read in the future. I love that I can create my own lists as well as see recommendations from friends.
If you aren’t already familiar with Goodreads, I encourage you take some time to explore the site. It is a fabulous resource connecting readers with similar interests via challenges, book clubs, and even special author talks.
How about you? Have you taken on a reading challenge yourself? What reading challenges have you and your teens enjoyed?