Keep Calm and Read Books

Winners of the StuyReads Challenge describe their experiences!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While Stuyvesant is known for its STEM-focused curriculum, reading is by no means a lost art among students. To further support this pastime, the library held the StuyReads ‘3-in-3’ Challenge from November 31, 2021 to January 31, 2022. Participants read one book from each genre: neurodiversity, nature, and mystery; then, they shared what they loved about their favorite book. The prize for completing this was a free book, and a yellow star with the winner’s name on it displayed at the front of the library.

Librarian Christopher Bowlin explained that the intent of the challenge was to steer students toward books they might not normally pick up. The genres were decided by the librarians and they tried to pick categories with a broad spectrum of options. “We try to stretch what folks might normally choose for their reading, and we try to have a diversity in the various categories,” he said.

The StuyReads Challenge evolved from librarians annually holding a Book Riot, which they decided may have been too involved for many students to partake in. Therefore, they adjusted the challenge. Instead of one big Book Riot, there would be smaller challenges every few months to make it more digestible and appealing for students. The librarians understand that balancing reading with schoolwork and other extracurriculars isn’t easy, and that students have their plates full. “We know that time is a premium for Stuy students,” Bowlin acknowledged. Making time to read is recognized as an extra effort in this challenge; therefore, students are rewarded for it.

The winners of the StuyReads Challenge shared their different experiences. Senior Ashley Wu found it to be surprisingly hard, despite having been an avid reader in the past. “I’ve had very little time to focus on reading as a hobby outside of school ever since I started attending Stuy, so actually finding the time to just sit down and read was pretty difficult,” Wu admitted. However, she was able to overcome this and hopes that others will be able to as well. She continued, “I would encourage anyone interested to participate, not just because of the incentive of a free book, but because it challenges you to read from more diverse genres.”

For some, the challenge was not too difficult and they enjoyed participating. “I found the StuyReads challenge easy because it was so straightforward,” freshman Maisha Thakur revealed. “Personally, I am a very indecisive person, and it takes me so long to pick out which book I am going to read. This made it much easier for me.” She found the guidelines to be helpful and the librarians to be very supportive. “I enjoyed the experience overall as it was laid back, and since I have an addiction to reading, the challenge wasn’t asking me to partake in anything more than doing what I love,” she added.

Many participants were able to broaden their reading horizons as they explored genres they were unfamiliar with. For instance, junior Vansh Saboo thought that reading these distinct books was able to open him up to new perspectives. “Particularly the neurodiversity category,” he said. “Because I read ‘Flowers for Algernon’, for instance.” “Flowers for Algernon,” uniquely written through diary entries, follows a mentally disabled character and his story when a scientific breakthrough triples his IQ. “I found that it helped my perspective toward less capable individuals,” Saboo said.

Junior Ryan Chen, who usually sticks to reading fantasy and world-building fiction, was now encouraged to read outside those genres. “I really think that reading diverse genres of books is important and the StuyReads challenge does just that,” he described.

Like Chen, Wu agrees that the challenge introduced new genres to her, and has motivated her to continue to read. “I’m really into mystery novels and not so much nature-related books, which was one of the categories of the StuyReads challenge, so it was an interesting experience to read outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “The challenge helped me get back into reading as a hobby. Recently, I’ve been checking out more books and browsing the library catalog more, so I’m glad I participated.”

After a positive experience with this StuyReads Challenge, these dedicated readers are looking forward to the next one, and they hope that more people will try it. The librarians asked their monitors that started this term for genre suggestions to get student inputs. A triple crown of fiction books was recommended. The Triple Crown Wildcard challenge started on March 7 and will end on June 15th. To participate, one can first read a Science Fiction or Fantasy book, then a Sports Fiction or Romance book, third a Historical Fiction book, and finally a nonfiction book, the wildcard.

For all the bookworms at Stuyvesant, it’s comforting to know that there is a strong community of readers here. For reluctant readers, the StuyReads Challenge would be a good place to start discovering a worthwhile hobby.