Battle of the Funny Books by Todd Burleson

By Todd Burleson, Guest Blogger

At Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Illinois, we are passionate about reading. Each week we try to inspire students and teachers to explore new genres, authors and literary styles. One way we’ve done this is to participate in the Illinois School Library Media Association’s Annual Reader Award contests.  

These contests cover the full spectrum of reading interests from elementary to teen and young adult topics. At our school, a Kindergarten through fourth grade building, we participate in the Monarch and Bluestem Awards. We begin the year by sharing the titles on both lists with our students. We book talk the Bluestem titles and have several copies of each book on display in our awards section. We share the Monarch titles throughout the first half of the school year with our students.  Voting takes place at the end of February and we anxiously await the statewide results each spring.

This year we decided we wanted to try something different as the Monarch and Bluestem voting wrapped up. We’ve always wanted to do some sort of ‘March Madness’ with our students, but weren’t really sure how to organize it.  We also wondered if the younger kids would even get the concept around ‘March Madness.’ Our Spring Break seemed to take the wind out of our sails as we planned it in the past. Thankfully this year, we found this fantastic site that sets up the brackets and makes it super efficient.  

In the end, we decided that we needed a little humor in our lives. So, we went with a battle of the ‘funny books.’ We made two brackets: chapter books and picture books.

The first week we shared the two brackets with the students.  For ease of voting, we decided that first and second graders would vote on the picture books and third and fourth grade would vote on the chapter books. Once we got down to the championship, the students could vote for whichever they feel should win.  

We are using Google forms to do our voting. This makes data collection a snap. We are eager to see how our students respond to the contest. We hope it encourages lots of laughter, enjoyment and maybe even some exploration of genres or titles that are new to us.  My favorite part of this contest was sharing the brackets with the kids. There was so much excitement and conversation around the titles in both brackets. The kids did most of the ‘book talking.’ This definitely generated  conversation around reading and got students exploring books they normally wouldn’t have considered.


Todd Burleson is a 24-year veteran educator.  He's taught kindergarten through college-aged learners in both private and public schools.  He was honored to be named the 2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year.  He is passionate about books and bytes and trying to find the balance between the two. His favorite genre is Historical Fiction.  He loves making, learning and creating in all forms.  He has been a Library Media Specialist since 2010.