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Read a book, earn a badge – or all 46

Godfrey-Lee — Walking down the fifth-grade hallway at Godfrey Elementary, the colorful decorations that cover students’ lockers appear to be magnets or stickers, but are actually badges of achievement.  

Like Scouts earn badges for completing projects or activities, Scott Kelly’s fifth-graders earn them for reading books from different genres, lengths, time periods, cultures and more. 

“These badges allow kids the freedom to choose their books based on their reading levels and interest, and they can all still earn the same badge,” Kelly said. “It’s not all about the badges; it’s about the students growing a love for learning and reading.”

Christian Reynolds likes earning badges and displays them proudly on his locker. He enjoys reading book series and has earned badges for reading them from first to last. 

Said classmate Kamren VanAlstine: “Being able to earn badges encourages you to read more, and read different types of books.”

Brainstorming the Badges

A few years ago, Kelly’s wife came home with a summer reading badge challenge from Kent District Library, and he thought if badges motivated adults, they just might motivate kids to read more.

“I had this dream in my head for years, so at the beginning of this year I taught myself how to use graphic design software to design badges,” he said. “I’ve worked with kids for so long, I know what they like and wanted to make my badges unique.”

He now offers 46 reading badges for students to earn, including a badge for having read a book from the year a student was born, one for award-winners and badges for books about technology. 

“When you get a badge it feels like a real-life achievement, and it’s so satisfying to put them on your locker.”

– fifth-grader Aiden Reyes-Matias

A classroom favorite is the “Let’s Tacobout It” badge, which can be earned by posting an online review. Kelly collaborated with his students to design the badge: a cat riding a taco through space. 

“When kids saw the taco cat, they freaked out, went nuts on it and all started posting reviews on Goodreads for books they read,” he said. 

As an English teacher, Kelly said he is passionate about making reading fun and accessible for his students. He has helped his students sign up for library cards and set up Goodreads accounts. 

“It’s now a social thing for us,” he said. “The students comment on each other’s reviews and I’ve been sharing their reviews on social media and tagging different authors to see the post.” 

Motivation Sparked

Since introducing the badges earlier this semester, Kelly’s students say they feel more motivated to read new books. 

“When you get a badge it feels like a real-life achievement, and it’s so satisfying to put them on your locker,” Aiden Reyes-Matias said. 

Lakie Mitchell-Reed said she has started reading “bigger books” and enjoys those about Black history and scary stories – both badges she’s earned. 

“Sometimes kids get stuck on one kind of book,” Kelly said. “I wanted to encourage them to branch out and eventually discover new things through books.” 

He hopes the reading challenge inspires them to search for new books on their own and talk about them at home with their families. 

“I used to always read graphic novels, and now I’m reading more chapter books and leaving reviews online,” said Josephine Shindano.

Starting in the fall, Kelly plans to keep track of his own badges earned.

“It’s really important for (my students) to see me as a reader. I read like crazy,” he said. “I read young adult books to keep on top of what’s new, and so I can make recommendations to students.”

Teachers can also purchase a digital download of all the reading badges on Kelly’s online store, Uber Fab Reading Lab, through Teachers Pay Teachers.  

“I am so thrilled to have this dream of mine doing exactly what I hoped it would do,” he said. “I want it to spread to other classrooms and inspire a love for reading all year long.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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