April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Illinois High School Scores the Follett Challenge Grand Prize

follett challenge

Belleville West High School, in southern Illinois, has been named the grand prize winner of $65,000 total in Follett products and services in the third annual Follett Challenge, a competition to identify, reward, and promote the most innovative teaching and learning programs. The high school won for its cutting edge Community of Readers program, which challenges students in each grade level to become avid and engaged pleasure readers. The program, in its fourth year, was the brainchild of the school’s English department as it explored ways to encourage students to read for sheer pleasure, in addition to reading for school assignments.

“We saw too many students who were apathetic about reading, and we watched as our own classes sometimes settled into ruts,” said John Lodle, Belleville West’s English department chair. “We wanted to share our personal passion for books as well as spark new enthusiasm for reading in our students.”

Each grade level at Belleville West is challenged to read one million pages for fun. In its first year, the school’s freshmen read an average of 2,430 pages each, translating to more than 1.4 million pages total.

“The program has resulted in a change in the whole culture of our school, and it also resulted in some impressive gains on our school’s standardized test scores,” Lodle said. “When we heard about the Follett Challenge, we saw a way to share our excitement about what we are doing at our school.”

According to Sue Adelmann, one of six Follett Challenge judges, Belleville West clearly stood out in this year’s competition.

Click this link to watch a video of Belleville West High School learning of its win in the competition.

“Belleville West’s program is helping create literate, confident readers who are ready to tackle college and career challenges,” said Tom Schenck, president of Follett School Solutions. “We salute them for their impressive program and all the schools that showed off their effective approaches to 21st-century learning in this year’s Follett Challenge.”

With the Follett prize rewards, Lodle said, “We plan to add new books, ebooks, and subscriptions from Follett to our school’s library,”

Belleville West’s video submission has been viewed on the Follett Challenge website more than 2,800 times, which has contributed to the English department’s goal of helping to share the Community of Readers idea with other schools across the country. (Click here to read the in depth PDF case study about Belleville West’s Community of Readers program.)

“What touched us all is the amount of outreach the school had with the program in the context of the million books,” said Adelmann, senior director of market intelligence at Follett School Solutions. “You could clearly see that the school has successfully moved the needle and changed kids’ lives.”

The other three semifinalists in the challenge are: Albert P. Terhune Elementary School in Wayne, New Jersey; Memorial and Thomas Jefferson middle schools in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.; and Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Michigan. Each school earned $35,000 in Follett products and services.

For more information on the Follett Challenge, visit www.follettchallenge.com.