By now everyone has likely read or heard about the 4-year old girl from Gainesville, Georgia who has read more than 1,000 books already in her young life.

This is outstanding, especially when you compare it to a typical American will read about four books in one year. Even more serious readers only make it to 50 or 100 in one year. In this case, the mother and child were responding to a reading challenge by their local library, who encouraged parents to read to their children.

Reading challenges can unleash the inner bookworm in anyone, child or adult. The Goodreads challenge is the perfect example of the simplest reading challenge around. It is free to join the reader’s social media site. You add the books you have read (even in years past) and give them your star rating and a personal review, if you desire.

reading_challenge_badge-90820c0c75a5f1231cc641bf3ce2f138For the challenge, you just enter in how many books you want to read in 2017. Goodreads will give recommendations for what to read based on your previous history. If you are so inclined, there are also virtual book clubs you can join to discuss books and make friends.

In 2016, 3,051,765 readers participated in the Goodreads challenge reading 39,470,450 books of the 142,378,624 pledged.

Do reading challenges work in encouraging more reading? I think it depends on your personality. I like analytics, goals and tracking progress. I like seeing the numbers click away and tell me if I am on track to meet my goals or not. It is also a great place to go if someone says, “do you have any books you’d recommend?” Because I can’t always remember what I have read beyond the last book, it allows me to look back months, even years.

One of the greatest accomplishments of reading challenges is that they encourage diversity in the books that we read. They push us to read books outside of our comfort zones.

Of course there are cons to reading challenges as well. Stress is certainly at the top of the list. Some feel the pressure to achieve their reading goals so much, they lose the joy of reading. Time is always an issue. We all lead busy lives. That can make it somewhat difficult to keep up with reading challenges, not so much because we lose steam but rather because we simply don’t have time to read. Worrying about reading challenges then seems to be very counter-productive and leads to the previous issue.

When it comes to reading challenges, I believe the best approach is moderation. Pick the reading challenges you are truly interested in and set reasonable goals. Don’t join twenty challenges, only to fail at the end of the year and beat yourself up. Choose reading challenges that honestly challenge you as a reader, but don’t try to push yourself so hard that you end up giving up everything else in life.

Melody K. Smith

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