FAQ

CONTEST QUESTIONS:

Q: WHO SHOULD ENTER THIS CONTEST?
A: Writers of any kind, educators, parents, students and beyond. Teachers and educators can write together with a group of students.
Q: FOR WHOM AM I WRITING?
A: Teens and young adults, ages 13 and older, who read below level for a variety of reasons.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I WRITE ABOUT?
A: We have a few story topic suggestions for Category 1 and Category 2. Try to write about a subject you know well that has appeal to a wide audience of teens/adults.
Q: WHAT DOES “HIGH-INTEREST” LOOK LIKE?
A: The key to high-interest is age-appropriate, relatable content. This applies to characters and plot. The look and feel of text is also important. Graphics should be mature and compelling. More info and tips: high-interest content.
Q: HOW MANY STORIES CAN I SUBMIT?
A: You can submit as many as you can within the contest submission period. Series and collections are encouraged.
Q: CAN I USE MY OWN ILLUSTRATIONS AND PHOTOGRAPHY?
A: Yes. Proof of copyright may be required. Copyrighted images (property of others) are not allowed and will disqualify the story entry. More information
Q: WILL MY STORY BE ENTERED INTO THE ONLINE LIBRARY EVEN IF I DON’T WIN?
A: Yes, as long as the panel of judges deem it adheres to the best writing practices.
Q: HOW WILL I BE NOTIFIED IF I WIN?
A: You will receive an email.
Q: WHAT ARE MY CHANCES OF WINNING?
A: It depends on how many stories are submitted and if your story meets the standards set by the panel of judges.
Q: DO THE STORIES HAVE TO BE WRITTEN IN ENGLISH?
A: Yes.
Q: ARE SHORTER STORIES MORE LIKELY TO WIN THAN LONGER STORIES?
A: As long as the story falls within the guidelines, there is no preferential treatment given.
Q: IF I WANT TO PUBLISH MY STORY ELSEWHERE ONLINE OR IN PRINT MAY I DO SO?
A: Yes.
Q: I’M A TEACHER AND WOULD LIKE MY STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE. CAN THEY?
A: As long as you enter on behalf of your class. Remember that prizes are awarded to a single person who is 18 or older.
Q: I’VE NEVER WRITTEN A STORY IN MY LIFE. SHOULD I STILL TRY?
A: Absolutely. You’d be surprised at what you can do.

GUIDELINE QUESTIONS:

Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A BEGINNING READER?

A: There are many reasons why someone might be considered a beginning reader. “Beginning reader” is a broad term, which can describe a wide range of readers. For our purposes, a beginning reader is a reader who is well behind their age or grade level in reading.

Adolescents and young adults might have challenges with reading because they have a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, that affects their ability to decode words. They also might struggle to read if they have other learning differences, such as organizational challenges, memory or attention challenges, or processing disorders. Others might have developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, or other challenges that affect the development of literacy skills. Additionally, older students may also be beginning readers because they are English Language Learners, still acquiring language, vocabulary, and new reading skills. Lastly, many students in low income or impoverished environments are beginning readers. More than 20% of adults in our country read below the needed level and lack foundational literacy skills.

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS THAT “READING LEVEL” IS DEFINED?

A: There are many ways of measuring and categorizing reading level, which apply both to text readability and reader level. The different systems aren’t quite standardized, but they are roughly aligned. To learn more about different reading level measurements, you can browse the following sources:

Fountas & Pinnell
Lexile
DRA
Correlation Chart. You can also find more information from Orca Book Publishers and Scholastic. In addition, Microsoft Word will provide quick readability statistics on a document. Use the spell check tool to learn the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of what you’ve written.

Q: HOW DO I MAKE SURE MY ENTRY IS AT A BEGINNING READING LEVEL?

A: There are two categories of “beginning” reading levels for this contest, and many strategies you can use to make entries accessible at each level. Tips for writing beginning entries. Tips for writing intermediate-level entriesYou can also do a quick-check using Microsoft Word, to display information about the reading level of the document, including readability scores according to Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Click on Tools, then Spelling and Grammar, then Options, and then check Show readability statistics. Now Word will display readability statistics whenever you spell-check a document. It is important to note that this assessment of readability is NOT perfect; it will only provide a ballpark snap shot to give you a sense of the readability.

Q: WHO WILL BE JUDGING MY STORIES?A: Our distinguished panel of judges will select the winning stories based on the Winner Determination Criteria. The panel includes experts in the fields of writing, publishing, literacy, and education. Learn more about some of our amazing judges:Andrea Davis-Pinkney is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and non-fiction. Andrea is also the Vice President and Executive Editor at Scholastic Trade.
Andrew Wooldridge is the publisher at Orca Book Publishers, a pioneer in producing reluctant reader books. He is also the editor of Orca Book Publishers. With contemporary themes and exciting stories, the Orca Soundings series of books that teens want to read.
Karen Erickson is a Professor of Literacy and Disability Studies, and the Director of the Center for Literacy & Disability Studies at UNC School of Medicine
David Koppenhaver is Professor of Reading Education and Special Education Appalachian State University

Q: COULD I CREATE A SERIES FOR THE CONTEST?
A: Yes. A series is great format for striving readers. More details on series success

Q: WHY SUCH AN EMPHASIS ON THE USE OF IMAGES AND OTHER MULTIMEDIA?
Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them. For example, those with sensory disabilities (e.g., blindness or deafness); learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia); or language / cultural differences, may all require different ways of approaching content. For beginning readers, images and other media can be especially important because it helps make inferences about text that is hard to decode or understand. Multimedia also plays an important role in the engagement of readers who have had negative experiences in learning to read. An engaging image that cleverly foreshadows a critical element of the story might engage a reader’s attention and propel them to work through the more difficult texts.

Q: WHAT ROLE DOES EMOTION PLAY IN ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS WHO ARE JUST BEGINNING TO READ?
A: Adolescent and young adult beginning readers often have negative feelings about reading and have not learned that reading can be engaging and pleasurable. These feelings are often exacerbated by the books that are available – as there are few choices when reading level is low and interest areas mature. Experiences with high interest texts at the appropriate reading level can give beginning adolescent and young adult readers their first positive feelings about reading and can propel early readers to practice and gain competence in reading.

READING AND LITERACY INSTRUCTION QUESTIONS:

Q: WHAT ARE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF VOCABULARY?

A: There are many different ways to categorize vocabulary. For example:

Tiers: There are three tiers of English Vocabulary:

Tier 1: Basic and General Vocabulary (basic, everyday words, for example: old, happy, run, baby)

Tier 2: Descriptive Vocabulary (commonly used in mature language settings, across various contexts and topics, key for everyday comprehension. For example: explain, mature, compare).

Tier 3: Precision Vocabulary (low-frequency, mostly domain-specific. For example: pulmonologist)

Sight words: Sight words (also known as high-frequency words) are basic words that are encountered often in early reading. These words may be challenging to sound out, because spelling is not straightforward or does not follow typical decoding

patterns. Therefore, these words often must be recognized or learned by sight. For Example: “the,” “where,” “two,” “laugh”.

Dolch’s Word Lists and Fry’s Word Lists are both ways of categorizing sight words. The Dolch Word List is older, and includes the 220 most common words. They are broken down by grade level, ranging from pre-primer list to 3rd grade list. Fry’s Lists are more current and comprehensive than Dolch Lists. They include 1,000 words, broken into 10 lists of words, based on frequency of use and difficulty.

Q: WHAT IS DECODING?

A: Decoding skills are skills used to make sense of printed words:

Recognizing the basic sounds and sound blends (phonemes) that make up a word.

Recognizing/analyzing a printed word to connect it to the spoken word it represents.

Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO STRUGGLE WITH COMPREHENSION BUT NOT DECODING?
A: Readers struggle to comprehend text for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a reader can decode words effortlessly and fluently, but still be a “beginning reader” because they struggle to comprehend the text. Comprehension can be impeded by vocabulary, sentence structure, fluency, as well as lack of reading skills and strategies. Readers with more severe disabilities may struggle with the comprehension of abstract concepts. Students who are English Language Learners may struggle with comprehension because of vocabulary or lack of context/background knowledge. Some readers may struggle with comprehension because of lack of practice applying skills/strategies to understand text.
Q: WHAT IS READING FLUENCY?

A: Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important for reading, as it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.

Fluent readers can recognize words and comprehend meaning at same time. Readers who are not fluent must focus attention/energy on decoding words and can’t simultaneously build text comprehension. Fluency’s four main components are: rate, accuracy, phrasing, and expression

Q: WHAT IS INDEPENDENT READING?
A: Independent reading refers to the task of reading without support. It is the level at which readers can apply skills and absorb knowledge entirely on their own.
Q: WHAT IS GUIDED READING?
A: Guided reading is usually done in a class or small-group context, where teachers actively support students’ reading comprehension throughout a text or story. Students are taught to use strategies such as visualizing, predicting, connecting, inferring, questioning, retelling and summarizing. They may also work on word-reading skills (decoding), vocabulary support, or fluency.
Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “LEARN TO READ VS. READ TO LEARN”?

A: Generally, students are actively learning to read through 4th grade. Learning to read involves decoding, comprehension, and fluency. It relies heavily on “word work,” which involves learning sound-symbol relationships, blending letters into words, mastering sight words with automaticity, and associating meaning with words. From there, it also includes fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary support. All are taught actively to build reading skills and strategies.

Around 4th or 5th grade, students start being required to read to learn. This refers to the element of schooling we all experienced post-elementary school: where we must read textbooks, articles, novels, to learn about new topics or expand our understanding. Instead of learning how to read, students are using their reading skills and strategies to learn new content. By this point, the major assumption is that students already know how to read with automaticity. It becomes increasingly hard for struggling readers at this point – as they cannot rely on text to acquire information. Peers can quickly surpass them, and students feel confused and behind, both in reading and content.