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Our School’s March Madness Reading Competition

School Wide Reading Competition: March Madness

I blogged a lot about our elementary school’s March Madness reading competition and have tried to answer emails about the rules of engagement. The rules have changed over the last 8 years since we’ve first started. Also, my recollection is hazy at best.  All I know is that my kids read like crazy to win that extra P.E. session and we all win in the end, no matter what place their class ends up in.

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This year, the competition has started again and I am posting the rules in hopes that it inspires your school to pick up the torch and try this reading competition next year. It’s a lot of fun and I do really notice a marked improvement in my kids’ reading abilities after just one month of reading madness!

march madness reading competition scoreboard


  • The Peirce School March Madness Reading Celebration will begin on Friday, March 1 and run through Thursday, April 4.
  • The kickoff will take place at our town meeting on March 1 and each classroom will be randomly assigned the name of an actual NCAA basketball team.
  • Students will earn points for their team based on the number of minutes read daily at home during March Madness.
  • Each student will log their daily reading onto the paper reading log and enter their WEEKLY MINUTES read into an online database AT HOME every Thursday evening. 
  • Students will hand in the paper copy of their reading log to their classroom teacher every Friday morning and should begin to log their weekly minutes read into the online database on Thursday, March 7.  Students should continue to log their weekly minutes read every Thursday evening up until Thursday, April 4.
  • Team points earned will be tallied and recorded every week onto a large graph in the main hallway.
  • Books read in school are not eligible for points.
  • Books read as part of nightly reading can be counted.  (March Madness reading does not have to be in addition to regular home reading, although we hope students will be more inclined to read).
  • There will be a separate point system for grades K-1 and for grades 2-5. 
March Madness reading competition

My mom friend Melissa says, “Quietest play date ever! Everyone is reading for the March Madness reading competition.”

Point System

Read a book (or have it read to you in grades K-1) and record your daily minutes read onto the March Madness Reading Log.  A weekly reading log will be sent home every Friday. Every Thursday evening, students (or parents of younger students) will transfer the total number of weekly minutes read into the online database. 


Points will be based on the number of minutes read weekly by each class.

Grades K-1 – Every 15 minutes = 1 point

Grades 2-5 – Every 30 minutes = 1 point

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Team Bonus Points

90% class participation = 30 points each week

Complete the Team Research form (1 per class) = 15 points

Decorate your door or bulletin board = 15 points

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If NCAA team makes it to Sweet 16 = 10 points

If NCAA team makes it to Elite 8 = 10 points

If NCAA teams makes it to Final 4 = 10 points

March Madness reading contest for elementary school

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You might have noticed that victory will be won through points from reading versus the NCAA team you draw. The tie-in  to a real team is a lot of fun. Motivated class moms have written to their NCAA schools and have received small tokens such as tattoos or stickers. Once, UNC even sent plastic drawstring back pack bags.

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We always hope our kids will draw UCLA where my husband and I both attended. It has never happened yet though.

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How about you? Do your kids ever do reading competitions? If so, do you notice that it motivates them to read more?

p.s. Here are some great basketball themed picture books and chapter books that appeal to both girls AND boys.

Michael Jordan’s mom pens this picture book describing Michael during the years he was cut from his high school basketball team but never gave up. Review from JDaniel4’sMom.

From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors has this great post on March Madness on the Bookshelves with middle grade (ages 9 and up) chapter books.



THE REAL SLAM DUNK by Charisse K. Richardson


DRAGON ROAD by Laurence Yep


Click on image of book to view at Amazon or here to see at Barnes and Noble.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. This is a wonderful idea! Tying the competition to sports will motivate a lot more children. I have been involved with schools that have reading competitions, but none of them was this well organized.

    • Hi Barbara,
      I’m not sure how long my elementary school has been doing this but we have been there for 8 years and the program evolves each year. This year it’s more computerize and the short book reports have been dropped. Also, less writing of titles and what kids thought (thank goodness). It is really fun and the kids pore around the standings every day and take this very seriously! An extra P.E. is at stake with our wonderful P.E. teacher!!!
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  2. Love the idea. We have something similar but at a much smaller level. Our’s is like a simple reading assignment and a sheet to track progress. Parents then give some kind of incentive to finish the chart. It always works :)
    Reshama recently posted…Custard and CompanyMy Profile

  3. Wow! That’s impressive! I look forward to hearing how it goes. My son’s a bit too young to do any kind of reading competition but we did the summer reading program through our library. He was very tickled that he got a book from the library to keep. Maybe he’ll get a chance to do something like this when he’s older. :)

    • Hi Tiffa,
      How wonderful that your son earned a book from a summer reading program. I used to earn guppies when I was little and those kind of programs were very motivating. What that a library or school program? Our library has a program for summer reading but with funding cut, it is smaller and smaller each year which is a shame.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Keeping Kids Safe from Inappropriate TouchMy Profile

  4. I love it that the time counts, not the pages or books – kids have different pace of reading and usually when I hear about a reading competition I am scared yet another parent didn’t think of that. Great job! My little ones (5 and 7) have started reading very early and I was a bit surprised that is even possible but they love books and grow up surrounded by books…It may have a lot to do with my and my brother’s professional lives as we literally NEED as many books as we can find! :)
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  5. Emma reads ALL the time as is, but she does enjoy the competitions.
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    • Hi Maryanne,
      It’s so great that Emma loves reading!! Those reading competitions get kids who love reading to go on overdrive and I notice a huge surge in their reading ability after one month of reading non-stop. It helps when their class is placing high too! Right now my 5th grade daughter is in 2nd place and my 2nd grade son is in 3rd place. Grades K and First grade compete against each other. Grades 2nd through 5th compete against each other. I think it helps that my son’s 2nd grade class size is larger than my 5th grader!
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  6. I like that it is based on minutes and not pages! I hate when pages is the measurement, it’s so variable. Thanks for sharing your plan at The Children’s Bookshelf, very interesting to hear how others are conducting these kind of reading competitions!

    • Hi Mom and Kiddo,
      Yes, I agree with you! Minutes seems more fair. My 5th grader is also doing a reading fund raiser at the same time — our 5th grade has to raise money for graduation, field trip, class gift, year book etc since they graduate this year — and it’s based on number of pages OR minutes. The donor gets to choose. We went with flat rate.
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  7. Ann

    How fun! I can imagine this motivates a lot of kids! Love the connection to the real teams too!
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  8. Great idea. I’m sure the kids will love that.
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  9. Carrie

    Do you have rewards for classrooms? individual students? or school wide?

    • Hi Carrie,
      The rewards are so simple that I’m always amazed how motivating the contest is.

      There are two divisions: Grades Kindergarten and First Grade (per classroom). And Grades 2nd through 5th (also per classroom). The class with the most points wins an extra Physical Education session with our amazing PE teacher.

      There used to be recognition at the school assembly meeting for the kids who earned a certain number of points but I’m not sure if they do that anymore. It’s ALL about getting that extra PE class!!!
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