The Fall Reading Challenge

Librarian Cassandra Jones starts reading challenge, with raffles and prizes, to incentivize recreational reading


Photo courtesy of @readondo on Instagram.

With the guidelines of roughly 250 words, a rating out of five, and no spoilers, the reviews for the Fall Reading Challenge are intended to be true reflections of the reviewer’s opinion of the book. Running since September, but planned in March of 2020, the Fall Reading Challenge requires students to simply complete a book and write a short review. Cassandra Jones, the teacher-librarian at RUHS, runs the program.

“I had a Spring Reading Challenge all set up. I was ready to go. I made the posters, made the flyers, I promoted it. Then, COVID shut us down,” Jones said.

The idea behind the Reading Challenge is to get more students reading. The program’s reward system includes a weekly drawing from the list of reviews. Writing a review earns the student a raffle ticket, and the more reviews that students write, the more tickets they receive.

“In my mind, if you’re already doing it in your English class, and this is maybe the first time you’ve been asked to do independent reading in your class, get rewarded for it––get a $10 Starbucks gift card for writing a silly review,” Jones said.

Winners of the weekly drawings receive $10 gift cards as incentivization. The challenge also offers even more of an opportunity to read popular books.

“We got new books for the library at the beginning of the year, and I definitely book talk them and promote them, but also, I just buy really popular books that people see on like BookTok or book-YouTube,” Jones said.

“BookTok” is a common name for book review content on TikTok, with other websites having similar names for content of the same variety. On websites such as these, large communities promote and review books. Some titles have become widespread purely because of this. Books like “Circe” and “Song of Achilles,” both retellings of Greek mythology, coupled with books like “One of Us is Lying” and “The Inheritance Games,” both page turning mysteries, have risen to fame with these websites. 

“I had to make a schedule for book talks because people were like ‘Can I go today?’ and I’d be like, ‘Sorry, we already have seven people going.’ It got kinda intense,” Jones said.

Some English teachers implemented book talks, verbal book reviews, into their classes, which makes writing reviews for the Fall Reading Challenge even easier, as they prompt students to read and talk about a book of their choosing.

“I think putting it in the morning announcements reminded people because I noticed the first time it ran, I got like three people emailing me and saying, ‘Hey, here’s my review,’” Jones said. 

Additional publicity such as the RUHS library’s Instagram account (@readondo) has posted about the Fall Reading Challenge since early October and recently posted pictures of the winners from the first drawing.

“If you’re already reading a book, or you’ve finished a book that you chose that wasn’t a book for school, just sit down and write 10 sentences about the book and get rewarded. It’s stupid easy, you know. It’s silly to not just get rewarded,” Jones said.