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Summer Reading Challenge Closes with Strong Results

October 1, 2020

Nashville Logs More Than 13 Million Minutes in the Face of COVID-19

If there’s one thing we know that Nashville looks forward to, it’s the annual Summer Reading Challenge at Nashville Public Library (NPL). Each year, we see thousands of adults, teens, and children come together to explore new stories and ideas as they win free prizes for reading.

But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, we weren’t sure what would happen. With our locations closed until June, we were apprehensive about how we would keep the Challenge going in these unprecedented times.

As it turns out, we had nothing to fear.

“We had over 7,000 Nashvillians registered who logged over 13 million minutes. While that’s not what we had aimed for, our community gave it their all this year,” said Cassie Welch, the children’s librarian at our Edmondson Pike location, who coordinated this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. “Last year, 14,000 people logged that same amount of minutes. If anything, we’ve learned our city loves to read and is dedicated to NPL!”

With a little help from our partners in the community and, of course, the stalwart people who call Nashville home, we were able to not only launch the challenge early, but finish strong.

“I love that the Summer Reading Challenge is now measured in hours! I haven’t participated since I was a kid, when it was still number of books read. I have dyslexia, so it takes me more hours to read one book than average. Now those extra hours count! It’s so encouraging and fulfilling to finally feel seen after all these years.”

Launching Early

Originally, Summer Reading Challenge was set to launch in May. When the “safer at home” order came down in March, closing most businesses and urging people to remain in their homes, it changed everything, especially for the folks at Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS).

It’s well documented that Summer Reading Challenge is key to combating the “summer slide,” when many kids cease reading every day. When that happens, we see a marked decrease in literacy skills that impacts not only reading comprehension, but skills in other school subjects, as well. With only 34% of Nashville’s third graders reading at the expected level, according to the 2018 Blueprint for Early Childhood Success, it’s obvious why that’s not okay.

With that in mind, and with schools closing early, the MNPS team asked if we’d be willing to start the Challenge ahead of schedule. We were more than happy to oblige, launching the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge on April 19.

To be clear — we couldn’t have done it without help from the team at MNPS and others in the community. 

MNPS volunteered to distribute paper reading logs at their weekly meal drops so families without internet access could still log their minutes. Meanwhile, the folks at Book ‘Em, a Nashville non-profit devoted to improving literacy in children through book ownership, handed out free books and paper reading logs to families who couldn’t access NPL’s collection of e-titles.

MNPS also featured our Summer Reading Challenge website prominently on their online resource list, ensuring that families looking for things to keep their children engaged could easily discover the Challenge.

“As a retired elementary school librarian, I appreciate any program that encourages children to read! Thank you for allowing readers to count any & all forms of reading in their totals. Thanks also for starting the program early & adding more audible & e-book choices to the NPL catalog. Great work, NPL!”

Impressive Results

Every summer, Nashville shows a lot of enthusiasm for logging at least 600 minutes to complete the challenge.

This year was no exception.

Nearly 7,500 people signed up for this year’s challenge, racking up 13,384,004 minutes spent reading in total. Of those registered, nearly 3,500 completed the challenge.

We also saw standout results across our age categories. Adult readers took top billing this year, with 1,318 completing the challenge, followed closely by our K-6 readers, with 1,082 completions.

Meanwhile, readers who call our Edmondson Pike location home contributed the most minutes logged, with 2,245,206 in total.

And finally, three participants, one for each age group, were drawn at random from a list of those who read at least 600 minutes this summer. For their efforts, we’re giving them gift cards for shopping sprees at McKay’s, The Bookshop in East Nashville, Fairytales Bookstore, and Parnassus Books.

This year’s winners are Shen R. (Bordeaux - Kids) , Juliana A. (Edmondson Pike - Teens), and Amanda R. (Richland Park - Adults).

"It was so well done online this year and gave us something to look forward to during the pandemic. Thank you for everything you do, NPL!"

A Great Challenge, Because of You

This is probably the most tumultuous year any of us have ever faced. It would have been easy to set expectations low and just “let it ride” in light of everything else we’ve had to overcome in 2020.

But Nashville is better than that. And, with this year’s Challenge, you proved it.

So, thank you. Thank you MNPS and Book ‘Em for putting paper reading logs and physical books in the hands of families who need them most. 

Thank you AllianceBernstein, our lead Summer Reading Challenge sponsor, and all who helped make this year happen. As a sponsor of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, AllianceBernstein is committed to serving and supporting the Nashville community through literacy and learning. AllianceBernstein has many dedicated team members who are involved and engaged patrons of Nashville Public Library branches across the community. Additionally, many AllianceBernstein employees volunteer their time with NPL and who serve in leadership roles with Nashville Public Library Foundation (NPLF).

But most of all, thank you, Nashville, for taking the time to read, no matter what else is going on. You’re the reason why the Summer Reading Challenge matters, and you’re why, no matter what else our city faces, NPL will be here for you.

We can’t wait to see you again for next year’s Challenge!

Wizard avatar


Ed's a proud member of NPL's Marketing and Communications team. Some of his favorite books include Dracula, Once an EagleNeuromancerStarship TroopersThe Black CompanyBerserkBlade of the ImmortalBlame! and Vampire Hunter D. When not at the Library, you'll find him spending time with his wife and son, doing interval training, reading, or waiting for the next FromSoftware game.