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Non-Fiction Bingo & Newbery Club

Non-Fiction Bingo

Every month, I visit the 4-5th grade elementary school in my community for Book Bistro, where teachers send 2-3 students to the school library during their lunch or recess periods. Sometimes we play a game like Apples to Apples or make up stories using Story Dice. We always chat about books. These regular visits keep me connected to the schools and help build relationships, especially with the students who don’t always make it to the public library, in a fun and low-key setting.


One of my most successful Book Bistro plans over the last few years has been Non-Fiction Bingo. As an avid non-fiction reader, I wanted to make sure I was introducing and promoting non-fiction just as frequently as fiction. Fair warning – putting this together does take a little legwork and some time. But the kids have responded so enthusiastically, it’s worth the effort.  

To create my Non-Fiction Bingo, I browsed the shelves for 24 eye-catching titles, looking for a good mix of subjects and formats. I flipped through the books until something caught my eye (captions are useful in this regard), marked the spot with a post-it, and added the word or phrase to the word bank. Finally, I typed up the list of 24 facts/interesting trivia as a reference document for me and created a blank bingo card with the word bank below.

When the kids arrived at Book Bistro, they filled out their bingo card with the word bank, creating individualized bingo sheets. Make sure to specify that each word/phrase is only used once.

Then we just played bingo – I drew slips of paper with the word bank words/phrases and the students covered that spot with a bingo chip. When a player got bingo, they picked 1 of the words or phrases that made up their bingo and I shared the trivia/information and the book that it came from. To make the books easier to find, I made 3 stacks of books, separated according to the numbered reference sheet– e.g. the first stack was the books for word bank phrases #1-8. Bingo winners got to select a piece of candy and everyone else got one piece at the end, but that’s completely optional.

We all had a wonderful time – it was a really fun game to play and everyone got to learn something new. Even better, I had multiple kids come to the library to ask for the featured books.  

If you’d like to borrow this or adapt it for a program at your library, please feel free! You can find the document with the 1. Blank Bingo Sheet with Word Bank, 2. Word Bank Clues, 3. Titles of Books (with ISBNs), 4. Printable Word Bank linked here.  

Kyra Nay

Kyra Nay is writing this post on behalf of the School Age Programs and Services Committee. She is the Branch Services Librarian I – Children’s at the Maple Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. When her nose isn’t in a book, she enjoys yoga, hiking in the Cleveland Metroparks, and playing tabletop board games.


Recruiting for Newbery 2040

The school library lights were dimmed. Twenty four fourth and fifth graders, squeezed together on a circle rug, leaned forward toward a blank projector screen. Suddenly, a smiling face filled the screen and the small crowd erupted in cheers and screams. Two kids in the front row covered their mouths and widened their eyes at each other.

“It’s really her!” One boy whispered excitedly.Newbery seal

This was September 27th, the day my mock Newbery Club  got to meet “our” member of the 2019 Newbery Committee, Robbin Friedman. My Newbery Club is made up of voracious readers from a Title 1 school near Denver, Colorado. Robbin graciously agreed to partner up with us this school year so my students would have an authentic audience for their feedback about Newbery eligible books.

For our Skype session, club members prepared questions ahead of time, ranging from, “What did you do when you first found out you were on the committee?” to “How much do you read every day?” (spoiler: she reads A LOT) to my favorite question, from the second grade younger sibling of a club member, “Do you sometimes read past midnight?”

In the six years since my mock Newbery Club’s inception, we’ve had the privilege of partnering twice with current members of the Newbery selection committee. Each time, this real-world connection has had a dramatic impact on my club members’ enthusiasm for our weekly book discussions and our end of season mock election.

During our club’s first year, Elizabeth Poe (then a member of the 2014 committee) helped me design a child-friendly book feedback form based on the same award criteria the committee uses. As our club meetings progressed from September until the award was announced, I occasionally sent batches of copies of the most thoughtfully completed feedback forms to Ms. Poe for her consideration. After the award was announced, Ms. Poe visited our school and shared behind the scenes pictures with our club. We saw a photo of the locked trunk of books containing nominated titles (We only saw the outside, of course!), a picture of the committee gathered around the phone to call the winning author, and pictures of committee members placing medal stickers on the covers. For those voracious readers, it was an experience they’ll never forget. When her visit drew to a close, students lined up to get her autograph.

While we are never certain which titles are being considered by the committee, and our club’s winning books don’t always win the medal, my club’s excitement as award season nears is palpable. I’m so grateful for the kindness of the committee members who take the time to share this experience with my students. It allows my students to see what doors of opportunity open to them when they pursue their love of reading.

The impact of these committee members on my students was exceptionally clear at one point in our Skype session, when a student asked Ms. Friedman who first inspired her to be on the Newbery Committee.

“Actually,” she said, “it was my elementary school librarian.” Suddenly, twenty four heads turned my way. One girl pointed at me, then pointed at the screen.

“So, that could be me one day?” She whispered. It was hard for me to only whisper my answer back:

“Yes. That could definitely be you one day!”

Susie Isaac

Susie Isaac has been the librarian at Sunrise Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado for eleven years. She currently serves on the School Age Programs and Services Committee. She can be reached at You can learn more about her club at Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.

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