Blogger Abby Johnson

AILA’s 2021 Read Native Challenge

Have you committed to a reading challenge in 2021? There are all kinds of reading challenges on the web, challenging you to step outside your reading comfort zone and check off certain reading tasks throughout the year. I think it can be a really beneficial for librarians because I think we’re able to provide better service to our patrons if we challenge ourselves to read widely. I wasn’t going to commit to one this year, but then I saw that the American Indian Library Association is presenting their first ever Read Native reading challenge and I knew that was the one for me!

AILA (American Indian Library Association) - visit ailanet.org
AILA (American Indian Library Association)

The 2021 Read Native challenge encourages readers to read books and literature by and about Native people. There are categories like “Read a book that takes place on a reservation” and “Read a debut novel from a Native author”. There’s no reason that learning about and celebrating Native authors and books only has to happen during the month of November. It’s something that we can and should be doing throughout the year!

The Read Native challenge includes a version for adults and a version for kids, so it’s custom-designed for promoting with your patrons of all ages. If you’re up for it (I know our reading lives are in a bit of upheaval nowadays), I encourage you to try the challenge yourself. If you work with kids (or even if you don’t), there’s no shame in trying the children’s version to familiarize yourself with Native children’s literature. And you have a lot of built-in book suggestions with the American Indian Youth Literature Award lists.

Of course, even if committing to doing the challenge yourself or promoting it with your students or patrons is not something you want to do, you can still support AILA and your patrons by making sure you have books available. Take a look at your collection and ask yourself “If my patrons wanted to do this challenge, would they be able to find enough materials at my library to complete it?” If the answer is no, it’s time to prioritize some spending on Native materials. Start with the American Indian Youth Literature Award winners and nominees and the AILA inclusive book lists. Make sure you think about the different age levels who might use your library. Is your Native collection as solid in middle grade as it is in picture books? What about for adults (which may not be your job, but can you nudge someone else to take a look)?

If you look at your collection and find that it’s fairly robust, that’s great! Next, check with yourself about your level of knowledge about Native books in your collection. Are you aware of what you have for different age levels? Are you thinking about them for displays and reader’s advisory throughout the year or just relegating them to November? If you find that your knowledge is a little shaky, maybe the Read Native challenge would be a good goal for 2021. Or maybe you can challenge yourself to do a little work towards familiarizing yourself at every desk shift or take 30 minutes of your off-desk time each week to look at some of what you have.

Whether or not you are up for a reading challenge yourself this year, the 2021 Read Native challenge can be a great tool for developing your collection. It might help you find some gaps to fill and encourage you and your patrons to become more familiar with Native literature. It’s definitely worth checking out!


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group IV. Collection Knowledge and Management, VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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