Nixa High School Dean of Students Allison Moore

Nixa High School Dean of Students Allison Moore poses with her current read, “Scythe” at her desk. 

A 2017 article by digital news outlet Medium says that in the time a person spends browsing social media in a year, they could read 200 books. 

“I totally believe that,” Nixa High School librarian Julie Huff told the Christian County Headliner News.

It’s a piece of trivia that may be a good motivator for the school’s ongoing reading challenge among teachers and other staff. 

“One of our main goals here in the library this year was to work on the community feeling of the building, because there are so many people,” Huff said. “So, we’ve kind of done different things in here through the year to work on that, and our reading challenge ties into that.”

The challenge began before school let out for winter break Dec. 17. It will continue until Jan. 17. Participants keep track of what they’re reading, and what everyone else is reading, in a Google Sheets form. It lists 24 readers, though Huff is sure there are more. 

“It helps so you can kind of see some trends, like ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’—several people read that one,” Huff said, skimming through the file. She’s currently reading “One of Us is Lying,” by Karen M. McManus. “They did this at the junior high last year, so we just kind of piggy-backed off it for this year.”

The Google Sheets file also lists the challenge’s dozen genres participants can choose from. The different categories include Gateway winners, nonfiction, graphic novels, audiobooks and diverse reads. 

“Diverse reads means maybe the author or the storyline is something not Nixa-typical,” Huff said. “Or it deals with a different religion, or landscape, place or culture.”

The range of genres, in fact, pushed participants to explore. 

“It really encouraged me to read things I wouldn’t normally,” high school Dean of Students Allison Moore said. She’s currently reading “Scythe,” by Neal Shusterman. “There are some things that I never would have touched that I’m now being forced to look into, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s gotten me out of my comfort zone.”

Dr. Moore agreed it’s important for everyone to read, but said it’s especially important in the field of education. 

“Personally, when I’m thinking about the students I deal with, reading is a way for me to better understand them and their situations that I’ve never gone through before,” she said. “I have more empathy.”

Sheila Michaels is also a librarian at Nixa High. She added more. 

“I think reading’s important because it can lead to really great conversation between a teacher and students,” Michaels said. “Reading the same book can lead to a neat bonding experience.”

Instructional technology teacher John Landrun-Horner said regularly reading is a great model to students. 

“I would say that it’s important for teachers to read not only to model that behavior, but we’re also committed to a profession of life-long learning, and reading supports that,” he said. “Professionally, anything we can get our hands on that helps us improve our practice is beneficial, and then privately, it’s important to be able to leave a job after work and relax with a good book about anything you enjoy reading.”

Huff said she hopes the challenge will help improve participants’ reading habits, if they’re not already where they need to be. At the end of it, a winner or two will take home a gift card, maybe to Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, she’s glad to see teachers creating a dialogue using stories and meeting others with which they have things in common. She plans to help organize another reading challenge near spring break. 

“We’ll ask for feedback,” Huff said. “But so far, so good.”

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