Libraries and Communities Exceed Winter Reading Goals, Win $35,000 from Mark Cuban

Katy Pattison News

The inaugural Beanstack Winter Reading Challenge for libraries came to a successful close this month, as more than 100 libraries all over the country and South Korea far eclipsed an ambitious goal set by investor and Shark Tank personality Mark Cuban. The billionaire had challenged communities to meet a collective goal of reading at least one million minutes and 50,000 books during the month of January. With $35,000 on the line, readers rose to the occasion, surpassing the “minutes” target in Week 2, and the “books” target in Week 4. Ultimately, participants logged 84,002 books, plus a remarkable seven million minutes of reading time. (For scale: at eight hours a day, that’s over thirty-nine years of reading.) In Christian County, 498 readers reported 197,837 minutes in January, almost doubling the 100,000 minute goal set for the local Winter Reader Challenge.

Classics Lead the Way

The most popular books among all participants included both old favorites and new page-turners. Goodnight Moon led the way for the preschool set, while several of the Harry Potter series topped the list for young students. To Kill a Mockingbird was the number-one choice for teens, followed by newer titles such as Nicola Yoon’s 2015 romance Everything, Everything, and Alexandra Diaz’s 2017 immigrant novel The Only Road. Among adults, Dan Brown’s 2017 thriller Origin was the runner-up, while the most-read title turned out to be A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 science-fiction novel, which benefited from the upcoming release of a movie adaptation starring Oprah Winfrey.

Of Cuban’s prize money, $25,000 was donated to to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. The remaining $10,000 was distributed to the top-performing libraries. The seven winners were: Bud Werner Library, CO; Keene Memorial Library, NE; Lincoln City Libraries, NE; MacDonald Public Library, MI; Menasha Joint School District, WI; Paramus Public Library, NJ; and Suffolk Public Library, VA. The funds can be used for community programs or donated to nonprofit organizations in each library’s area. “I’m inspired by the work libraries do for their communities,” says Cuban. “The prize for everyone is to pay it forward to an awesome organization focused on literacy and access to books.”

Using Cutting-Edge Software to Track Reading

The Winter Reading Challenge was coordinated through Beanstack, an innovative software that takes a modern approach to managing reading programs, bringing everything online and making it easy for librarians and readers alike to set up and maintain accounts to track their reading. It can also suggest more titles readers might enjoy based on their interests and reading “doorways.” Cuban became an investor in parent-company Zoobean after the founders impressed him with their vision on Shark Tank in 2013. Beanstack currently serves over 600 libraries globally. “Libraries are the lifeblood of so many communities, and we love having the opportunity to further their work in this way,” says Zoobean co-founder and Chief Client Success Officer, Jordan Lloyd Bookey.

Social Nonprofit First Book Elated to Be Chosen

Since its founding in 1992, First Book has distributed more than 170 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families.

“I believe that the most powerful force in the world is empathy,” says First Book’s president, co-founder and CEO Kyle Zimmer. “It is truly an honor to be selected by libraries and to have the reward for participants’ reading be to collectively give to First Book – bringing the joy of reading through books and resources to so many more children. What a wonderful way to build empathy and community. First Book is an ardent supporter of libraries and we are thrilled to be part of this program. We will absolutely put that $25,000 to work, serving kids in need.”