Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
How To

Running a Book Quiz Challenge In Your School Library: A How To

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Here in the UK, we are very keen on quizzes. I’m sure this is the same everywhere but it seems to be very heightened here. This is true for our students who frequent the high school library I manage. Every week I run a book club, we do several different activities but one thing the students love is doing a book quiz.

When we discovered that the National Literacy Trust, an amazing literacy charity here in the UK, was running a live virtual book quiz that pit school against school, we had to take part. This is no ordinary book quiz, as the questions are often abstract and include picture rounds, audio clues, anagrams and much more.

To help prepare the students, my colleague and I decided to make our own book quiz questions and to set up the book club as a kind of book quiz training ground for a few weeks. What we discovered is that the membership to book club doubled almost immediately. What is going to happens is that the book quiz team might be a separate entity running next to book club as it has become its own thing.

Here are a few tips on running a book quiz challenge in your school, things that work and things to watch out for!

Use Snacks

It might seem too simple or you may have a policy against food in your library, which is fine, but I can say that letting students eat while they take part has brought in a lot of new faces in my opinion. We have a lot of students in our school and many spend a long time in the lunch line. Giving an official library stamp to jump this line and take part in an event is very attractive to many. We allow food only during these once a week events but it has made a big difference.

Assign Student Leaders

We have around ten student librarians and they have a wide range of duties. Asking them to stand up in front of over 30 students to read out quiz questions is not for everyone but we have some very personable and charismatic student librarians who are more than willing to be in the spotlight. This has been a great opportunity for them to not only deliver the quiz but to help create the questions with the other students who prefer to be in the background. It can also be a lot of fun for them.

Give Prizes

We are fortunate here that we have amassed a small cache of new books to give away as prizes. Students really appreciate these and although we don’t give them out every week, we try to make a big deal of the quiz at least once a month and give away something. It doesn’t have to be books, it can be bookmarks or pins and badges, anything that is suitable. We are lucky to have some very craft-oriented staff and once we gave away small origami animals and friendship bracelets, I think they were the biggest hit yet!

Get Staff Involved

Easier said than done, but well worth it. We run this program at lunch time and staff are often on duty or desperately trying to cram some food down their gullet before heading off to their next responsibility. However, in the past we have reached out to our teachers in training and a few English teachers and having them read out the questions, interacting with the students in different ways, and having a lot of fun with it was very rewarding to watch. One of our teachers who used to help every week has joined another school and now we will be competing against them in the national competition.

Mix Up the Questions

I hinted at this in the intro but this has also made a big difference. We start our quiz with a picture round, we either have snapshots of more obscure book characters, parts of a book cover or a film poster made from a book with the title blanked out. We also include word scrambles and riddles. We give students 20 minutes to do these then another 15 minutes is spent with an announcer (usually me) reading out different questions. This could be something like “multiply the number of books in the Hunger Games series by the number of Pevensies siblings in the Chronicles of Narnia” or something like that. When we are done, students, who are in small groups, give their answer sheets to another group and we go through the answers.

There you have it, it’s a huge amount of fun, gets lively and is very rewarding in my opinion. I hope you get involved with a book quiz challenge in your school library!