Scholastic Principal Challenge: On the Hunt for a Good Book

On Monday, I participated in the Principal Challenge. My goal: Read from the morning bell to dismissal time. This initiative is promoted by the Scholastic Book It Program. The theme for my second year was “Hunting for a Good Book”.

I haven't deer hunted in four years (both of my kids were born around opening day). I had to dust off my hat and coat for this event.
I haven’t deer hunted in four years (both of my kids were born around opening day). I had to dust off my hat and coat for this event.

My library aide and her family hooked me up with a fake fire and the cozy reading chair. She also set out several nonfiction titles related to the theme.

Yes, these are all catalogued in our school library. Welcome to Wisconsin!
Yes, these are all catalogued in our school library. Welcome to Wisconsin!

I had brought several books and journals to my “hunting shack” in the library. However, I had very little time to read. The previous week, students were encouraged to recommend a favorite book to me while visiting the library. This resulted in 85 students suggesting titles to me throughout the day!

IMAGE_84My day was spent taking pictures of students with a favorite book, asking them why they were recommending it, and documenting the title and author on a Google Doc. This Doc was shared with staff so they could see what students were currently reading and share these recommendations with other students. The pictures are on display in the front lobby. The students didn’t get to see me read. Instead, they observed how interested I was in what they were reading for enjoyment. They also had the opportunity to practice giving a book talk for an authentic audience.

The Principal Challenge is still going on through Friday, November 14. If you are a building principal, at whatever level, I cannot imagine a more important activity you could do than letting your students see you as a person who values literature and literacy.

Below is a listing of all the books recommended to me by our students, organized by grade level. “NF” denotes nonfiction.


From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee
A Place for Zero by Angelie Sparagna LoPresti (NF)
Exploring Space by David Conrad (NF)
On Beyond Bugs! All About Insects by Tish Rabe (NF)
Stars by Thomas K. Adamson (NF)
Biscuit (series) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Yikes!!! by Robert Florczak
The Great White Shark by Lisa Owings (NF)
Dolphins by Martha E. H. Rustad (NF)
Warthogs Paint: A Messy Color Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Buffalo Sunrise: The Story of a North American Giant by Diane Swanson (NF)
The Two of Them by Aliki
A to Z: Do You Ever Feel Like Me? by Bonnie Hausman
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
A Knight’s Book by Ali Mitgutsch
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis
The Thanksgiving Beast Feast by Karen Gray Ruelle
Hotshots! by Chris Demarest (NF)
Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen

1st Grade

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kahn
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dawalt
Junie B. Jones, First Grader by Barbara Park
Biscuit (series) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

2nd Grade

Babymouse by Jennifer Holm
Poor Puppy and Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
Mr. Putty and Tabby Pour the Tea by Cynthia Rylant
Silverlicious by Victoria Kahn
How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town by Steven Kellogg
Dusk by Uri Shulevitz
Stink and the World’s Worst Super Stinky Sneakers by Judy McDonald
Rescue Helicopters by Becky Olien (NF)
The Truth About Unicorns by Molly Blaisdell (NF)
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
Should I Share My Ice Cream? An Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems
Heidi Hecklebeck by Wanda Coven
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
After Happily Ever After by Tony Bradman
1-2-3 Peas by Keith Baker
The Never Girls by Kiki Thorpe
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun? by Brian P. Cleary (NF)

3rd Grade

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
Spider Man vs. The Green Goblin by Susan Hill
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
The U.S. Air Force by Matt Doeden (NF)
Junie B. Jones: Dumb Bunny by Barbara Park
Jake Maddox: BMX Bully
National Geographic Little Kids Magazine (NF)
The Life Cycle of a Sea Horse by Colleen Sexton (NF)
Chamelia and the New Kid in Class by Ethan Long
Look Out, Suzy Goose by Petr Horacek
Goosebumps: Horrorland by R.L. Stine
Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
Geronimo Stilton: Watch Your Whiskers, Stilton!
The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes by Laurence Yep
The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Deer Hunting by Thomas K. Adamson (NF)
Vampires by Jennifer M. Besel (NF)
Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go by Annie Barrows
Let’s Play Soccer by Heather Adamson (NF)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward
Freshwater Fishing by Carol K. Lindeen (NF)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
All About German Shepherds by Erika L. Shores (NF)

4th Grade

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Loser by Jerry Spinelli
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

5th Grade

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Park
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: The New Girl by Meg Cabot
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
The Bar Code Rebellion by Suzanne Weyn
Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors
The Odd Squad by Michael Fry
A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Agent Amelia: Zombie Cows by Michael Broad
Warriors (series) by Erin Hunter
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Beast Quest (series) by Adam Blade
Swindle (series) by Gordan Korman
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

10 thoughts on “Scholastic Principal Challenge: On the Hunt for a Good Book”

  1. I remember when you did this last year, and I thought it was such a great idea! Ugh, I’m so mad I missed it again (I know I didn’t technically miss it yet, but it’s too late to set something up now). I really want my principal to do this! I’m putting it on my calendar for next year!


    1. It was a lot of fun Dana. I hope your principal takes advantage of it. I’ll admit, I felt a little guilty just sitting there. But the kids really got excited about the opportunity to share a favorite book with their principal. I am already planning next year’s theme…


  2. Great idea to promote literacy, specifically reading. Role models are important in the evolution of ‘reading for pleasure’ which is different from ‘reading to learn’. Great Mr. Renwick !

    Pat Van Slyke


  3. I wasn’t quite finished with the earlier comment and just wanted to ask one question: “Are you interested in being cloned or do you have a twin?” Education needs more administrators like YOU!”


    1. (~blushing~)

      An excellent book came out recently, titled “Read, Write, Lead” by Regie Routman. Everything an administrator would need to get started on the road toward literacy leadership is in this resource.


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