The Nerdbery Challenge

Libraries, reading, Uncategorized


Librarians are always trying to think of new ways to promote book awards like the Caldecott and the Newbery.  I was inspired by the book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer) to do a reading challenge called Nerdbery with my middle school students.  Many people attempt to do the Nerdbery challenge, which is essentially reading all of the Newbery winners in a set period of time.  The Newbery award, given by the American Library Association to the best book of the year for children, started in the 1920s so there’s a lot of reading to do!  I gave my school a set time, mid-December to the end of January, and only the books going back to 1965 in honor of my school’s 50th anniversary.  Here is how it worked:

Students picked out a book (or two, or three) that they wanted to read.  It had to be a Newbery winning book (sorry, honor books) and it also had to be a book that they have never read before.  We went with the honor system for this event. When they finished the book,  they would fill out a sheet with their name, the title and author, and a “six word memoir” about the book.


Prizes for finishing a book were a Nerdbery sticker, a membership card (bookmark), and entry for the prize drawing at the end of the month.  Students would also get their picture taken with their book and the picture would be placed on the “Wall of Champions”

Some notes:

  • I had the stickers and bookmarks printed by a great app Makr.  It was very easy to use and my friend used to work there so I got a sweet discount.  In the future, I would keep the year off the stickers so that I can use the leftover materials in the years to come!
  • Some of the prizes were posters that I got from the Scholastic Book Fair, we get one of each poster to keep for giveaways.  I also collect things like, McDonalds Happy Meal prizes, random sticker books, and giveaways that I get from book vendors and keep them in a basket in the library so that I always have prizes on hand.  I also raid Target’s $1 section from time to time.
  • This was a voluntary event.  Kids signed up for it just because they thought it would be fun, or because they wanted a sticker!  We didn’t get all of the books read but more than half of the kids grade 5-8 participated and some faculty and staff did as well.
  • Having the Wall of Champions was a great motivator.  I finally took it down in the beginning of March and some of the kids were sad to see it go, that is, until I let them keep their pictures!

I will keep this tradition going!  It was so great to see the kids excited to try a different genre or something that they never thought to read before!


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