Book Bingo: Dos, Don’ts, and … What Even?

Adult and Teen Summer Reading challenges can be tough. How can you inject some fun into the reading experience without seeming too childish or dictator-y? Everyone has a child within, but not everyone is willing to unleash that side of themselves in a public setting with no warning.

This is why Book Bingo is a popular option for both Teen and Adult Summer Reading Challenges! It is a fun yet approachable challenge that doesn’t require a lot of work, yet does encourage participants to read more, and to try new things.


However, not all Book Bingos are created equal. When designing your card, you need to balance just the right amount of challenge with freedom. Here’s what to do and what NOT to do.


  • Include a wide variety of types of squares, ie don’t make everything a genre. Personally, I would never do a genre based Book Bingo because I’ve already explored every genre and I know what I like. Also, genres have become so blurry, it’s no loner relevant. You can include variations on:
    • Author’s birth country
    • First letter of title starts with ___
    • Main character’s age
    • Genre-adjacent descriptions like – set before 1900, features a broken-hearted character, includes magic
    • Book page length
    • Book that made you laugh
    • Book format (audiobook, graphic novel, ebook)
    • Book made into a movie
    • Book that’s been translated
    • Book that makes you feel ___________
    • Book with a blue cover
    • Includes a character named ______________
  • If you’re running the Bingo for kids or teens, you could include some library-related activities in some of the squares:
    • Attend a library program
    • Make a button at the library
    • Watch the 3D printer in action
    • Ask a librarian for book suggestions
    • Read one chapter of a book in the library
  • Take inspiration from Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenges! They are some of the best examples out there for challenging patrons, while keeping things doable and fun.
  • Think about how many squares you’ll put on the bingo. For adult summer bingo, it might be better to do a 3 x 3 square, since adults tend to have less time to read, and longer books.
  • Let participants complete as many bingo cards as they want!
  • Have multiple different cards. You can arrange the squares differently, or add new squares for each card.
  • Have clearly expressed rules about how many squares a book can satisfy. For example, if you read a book set at a beach with a character from France, you’ll have to choose only one square.
  • Have space on the back or in each square for readers to write the names of the books.
book bingo
Book Bingo by an unknown organization, found on Twitter. Posted with permission of poster. Anything stand out to you as a bit off?



  • Don’t include polarizing topics that will make minority patrons uncomfortable! For example “Read a Christian Fiction book.” Even “Read a book by a male author” is not a good look. If anything, you should be encouraging books that feature diversity. And by diversity I mean minority voices who are not already lifted up 24/7 by society.  Of course readers can use Christian Fiction books or books written by a man to satisfy other squares on the card. But there’s no need to spoon-feed  books that are part of the majority or oppressive group. Not only does is send a bad message, but it could cause patrons to stop using your library.
  • Don’t expect everyone to be into the idea. Every reader is on their own journey – some have a good handle on what they want to read, and know how to challenge themselves. Others are looking for ways to expand their reading. Some have just come back to reading and have no idea what they want! Don’t be offended when people turn down your pitch.


Adult Prize Ideas (for libraries on a budget)

  • Have local businesses donate experience prizes: tickets to local shows, gift cards to restaurants, trips to the zoo or amusement park, coupon for free food, etc.
  • Create scratch tickets (using these stickers) that award winners with library prizes each time they complete a row: free coffee, $1 off fines, free 3d print, free book from book sale table, library book bag, library pen, etc.
  • If you want to go an even simpler route, skip the scratch tickets and simply roll up tickets with the prizes typed on them. Every time they complete a row, participants can reach into the bowl and pick their secret prize.

Now for the weird part!

I was inspired to write this post after seeing a tweet about Book Bingo gone wrong. It got me thinking, what would my ideal book bingo be like? It would be something that was weirdly and poetically specific, yet allowed for a lot of freedom. Something that allowed or whimsical exploration. Descriptors that are about the physicality of the book itself, or that are about *~*feelings*~*

And so I present to you:

Ontarian Librarian’s Weirdly Specific Book Bingo

  • Book with a frayed ribbon bookmark
  • Graphic novel in a language you don’t speak
  • Book from a used book store that’s clearly never been read
  • Children’s classic that you’ve never heard of
  • Book with the word “never” on the final page
  • Mother character has the same name as your mother
  • Book whose cover makes you feel deja vu
  • How To manual about something you’ll never do
  • Book whose cover you’ve judged, hard
  • Audiobook narrated by an actor
  • Main character is your exact age
  • The most ancient historical fiction you can find at your library
  • Last book in a series you’ve never read
  • Book you dropped down the stairs
  • Villain with impeccable style
  • Title has 5 of the same letters

Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Now that’s my kind of Book Bingo. Most of the items can’t be Googled, they have to be found through exploration. I’m definitely not suggesting that your library use my weird bingo, but it was fun to make, and I think I’ll try to complete it myself this summer.

What are your Book Bingo Dos and Don’ts?

2 thoughts on “Book Bingo: Dos, Don’ts, and … What Even?

  1. Ha ha!! The weirdly specific book bingo is SO tempting! I might just have to incorporate some of those ideas into our version next summer. (Seriously, I’m still evil-laughing over here.)

    Your suggestions for prizes are also great. We do Book Buck Bingo for teens at our library, with similar ideas as yours each summer. The teens earn a “book buck” to spend on items at the end of the summer like books, candy, gift cards etc. It’s the hottest library program in town each year!

    Great ideas. Keep it up! I’m enjoying your blog so much!

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