Walking through the library, you’re immediately surrounded by hard-working students. Concentration is palpable. Most students breeze through the entrance section of the library, their eyes set on a study room or individual desk, minds swirling with assignments and research projects. While moving quickly through the library will help you get your work done, you’ll miss the display in front of the main entrance that reveals an opportunity for all students: The Raiders Diversity Reading Challenge.
The Diversity Reading Challenge is a chance for students to read books with people and topics different from their day-to-day life. Rather than competing to read the most books in the shortest amount of time, you challenge yourself to read more than usual, whether that be one book or twelve. The challenge lasts until May 1, which gives students the flexibility to read at their own pace. Students earn prizes, ranging from fun sized candies to a surprise grand prize, based on the number and category of books they read.
Assistant Librarians Rhonda Mah and Julie Harvey started the Diversity Reading Challenge last summer.
“The objective is to have as many students as possible read as many different books,” said Harvey. “It’s reading outside of what you typically read.”
“The welcome with the theme for the school year really stuck with me,” said Mah. “According to the principal, the theme for this year is going to be diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Focusing on these values, Mah and Harvey decided to create a reading challenge with emphasis on reading diverse books, or books with a variety of settings, characters, authors, plots and styles.
“When we thought about how can we support the school as a library, we thought a reading challenge would be great, and a diversity reading challenge would be perfect,” said Mah.
After creating the main goals, Mah and Harvey designed the challenge using a bingo board as a way for students to track their progress and earn specific prizes. Each box on the bingo board is a book category, such as a book with a Native American author or main character, mental health, and romance. Students can read any book that fits within the category, but the librarians have also compiled a list of 25 recommended reads for each category on the library website.
While the prizes make the challenge fun, the real importance is exposing yourself to literature that contains different subjects and experiences from your everyday life.
“I liked the idea of reading things that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I read a lot of books, but they’re all similar in characters,” said Sam Tardif ’21, a participant in the challenge.
Reading diverse literature is a crucial way to learn about the world we live in, but diversity lessons in school can feel repetitive and monotonous. However, the librarians think that this challenge is going to be different.
“There’s a lot of freedom to choose what you want to read,” said Harvey. “It’s not dry. It’s not preachy. It’s supportive.”
Mah has used fiction and nonfiction books to educate herself on mental health and to learn how to help friends who struggle with those problems.
“By reading nonfiction or fiction that have characters with the same issues, it really helped me understand what my friends are going through,” said Mah. “It helped me know what should or should not be done, what is helpful, what is not. It’s very eye opening.”
Abby Stathis ’23 is an avid reader participating in the challenge. She thinks reading books with diverse topics has multiple benefits.
“[Reading diverse books can help you] raise awareness and look beyond yourself and your everyday life,” said Stathis. “It helps you understand the people around you, and the people who aren’t around you, better.”
“A lot of these books let you see the perspective of somebody who you aren’t, to see the world through somebody else’s lives,” said Tardif. “I think that’s an important thing to remember: not everyone shares our stories.”
While broadening your horizon is the main goal of the Diversity Reading Challenge, prizes make the reading fun and provide an end goal you can strive for. The challenge is split into three different levels, making it accessible for all different types of readers. The prize for completing level one is a fun-sized candy. From there the prizes go up, with level two being a king-sized candy, and the grand prize for level three.
“We haven’t announced the [grand] prize yet, but everyone [who completes level three] will get the same grand prize on May 1,” said Harvey.
“One could potentially claim a bonus: three level two (across, diagonally, and up and down), and the grand prize,” said Harvey. Harvey and Mah are enthusiastic about the reading challenge and hope the prizes will encourage students who are wary of reading to try at least one book.
The prizes don’t stop at levels however. Every five weeks, the librarians will also have a “show us your board” challenge, where any students who show the librarians the progress they’ve made on their bingo boards will be entered into a raffle for a book-themed prize.
Additionally, the reading challenge is not restricted to physical books. Listening to an audiobook or reading an ebook are both great ways to experience a story in a portable way.
“We want to encourage students to explore reading other formats,” said Mah. “We want to expand their mindset about reading.”
“I think that if a teenager says that they don’t like reading, they probably haven’t found the right medium yet,” said Claire Homa ’21, a participant in the challenge. “There are so many different genres of books to find something that interests you.”
To register for the Diversity Reading Challenge, follow the QR code listed below. Pick up a bingo board in the library and start reading.