Columbia, SC - During the 2015-16 school year Shannon Ryan, Library Media Specialist at Lake Carolina Elementary Upper Campus (LCEU) and Elementary District Representative for the Richland School District Two in Columbia, SC, set the goal to get more students reading nonfiction. In recent years, new standards have placed more emphasis on reading nonfiction and developing students’ research skills across content areas. With this goal in mind, Ms. Ryan decided to start a weekly trivia contest for students that would require them to read a nonfiction book in order to find the answer to the trivia question.
Promoting Standards-Based, Balanced Literacy
Ms. Ryan posted a new trivia question each week on the library’s web page as well as announced the question on LCEU’s morning show. Sometimes the questions aligned with the curriculum of a specific grade level and other times Ms. Ryan drew on holidays or events like the World Cup, NASCAR and football. To create the trivia questions, Ms. Ryan turned to the Big Universe eBook library so that all students would be able to participate. “We have a limited number of physical books but Big Universe provides unlimited, simultaneous access so the entire school can read the same book at the same time.”
“Kids love games and contests,” shares Ms. Ryan. “Even though we were only giving away small prizes like pencils and bookmarks, the students couldn’t wait to participate.” Each week, students turned to Big Universe to find the nonfiction eBook that contained the answer to the trivia question. After reading the book and formulating their answers, students entered the book title, author and page number where the question was answered using a Google Form linked on the Media Center Web Page. Each week, Ms. Ryan would go on the morning show and randomly select a winner from all the correct answers submitted.
Sparking School-wide Interest in Nonfiction eBooks
At the end of the 2015-16 school year when Ms. Ryan evaluated the library’s circulation she discovered that the trivia contest had helped increase nonfiction circulation by nearly 30%. According to Ms. Ryan, “The contest gave students an incentive to read nonfiction but once they started exploring what’s available in Big Universe they found other cool books they wanted to read. It helped change their perceptions of nonfiction and informational text.”
The contest also helped teachers discover the benefits of incorporating eBooks into their lessons. “Students noticed the connections between the books they were reading for the contest and what they were learning in class,” explains Ms. Ryan. “They told their teachers about what they were reading which piqued teachers’ interest.” The school had purchased Big Universe a year earlier but usage was spotty in spite of Ms. Ryan providing teachers with training on how to search for and assign eBooks based on reading level, subject and even standards. “The students’ excitement got teachers to start using Big Universe eBooks in class for whole group instruction as well as assign eBooks for individual reading. The kids were much more persuasive than me!”
Due to the success of the trivia contest, Ms. Ryan is using it again during the 2016-17 school year to promote nonfiction reading and reading comprehension of fiction books. She’s encouraging media specialists at other schools in the district to start their own contests and has shared the trivia questions she used last year with her colleagues to help them get started. Ms. Ryan is also planning on launching a trivia contest for teachers to help them get more familiar with the content and resources available through Big Universe.
Ms. Ryan is pleased with how much the Big Universe library has grown (to 10,000+ eBooks, 7,000+ of which are nonfiction) and “how easy it is for students to find books that interest them, that are at their reading level, and that support the learning goals we have for them.”
Connect with Ms. Ryan
Ms. Ryan is happy to share more about how Richland School District Two is supporting balanced literacy across the curriculum with Big Universe.