Empty the Shelves Challenge

During the month of April, I am challenging my students to read all of the books in our picture book collection. I saw the idea on the blog of A Zen Librarian. You can read all of his posts about this wonderful endeavor from last December beginning here. He led his school in reading to celebrate National Picture Book Month.

I have challenged schools in my district to identify a section and challenge students to read all of the books in that section to celebrate School Library Month. If you would like to join us for the month of April, go for it!!!

Why I’m optimistic:

  • Kids like challenges
  • I don’t have to count
  • I don’t have to make kids feel bad for not participating
  • The reward is intrinsic
  • I get to dust all the shelves once they’re empty
  • I don’t have to shelve any E books for the whole month!!!!
  • Students can read (and checkout extra picture books for the month)!!
  • Teachers can read!
  • I can read too!

What I’m worried about:

  • There are a lot of books…. 
  • Book Fair is in April
  • What if I can’t motivate students enough? 
  • I’m planning to tell kids, “that book has already been read this month–how about choosing another one?” (What!! No Elephant & Piggie!?!? Yes. I’m very mean.)

Matthew Winner is hosting a Shelf Challenge for librarians to read every book within a range of call numbers in their library. I think this will be a good match with my Empty the Shelves Challenge. I might not be able to read them all if they have already been read by a student, but it’s the attempt that matters! 

Celebrate School Library Month! Let’s Read!


  1. Wow! The Empty the Shelves challenge sounds AWESOME! Thanks for sharing! Imagine how well those two can go hand-in-hand. You read a section intently via the Shelf Challenge to know what’s there, find new curriculum materials, discover great read alouds, (and perhaps even aid in weeding), and the students work alongside with you. Very cool indeed!

    – Matthew

  2. Great idea! I’m challenging myself to empty the 811 (Poetry) section of my library during the month of April, to tie in with National Poetry Month. The biggest problem is going to be the seasonal poetry books; who wants Halloween poems in April?!?

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