Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Reading Bowl?

Really? Where was this competition when I was in school?  I “coulda been a contender” in something like a Reading Bowl.  I learned about this tournament when I read an interview with one of this year’s Georgia State champions.  It’s a competition in which teams of students in grades 4-12 come together to test their knowledge on a preselected list of books. Elementary schoolers get a list of 16 titles, middle schoolers 20, and high schoolers a different 20. The eighth grade contestant in the interview says that preparation includes reading the books over and over again plus practice sessions with teammates. Now, that would be right up my alley.
The Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, conceived by a media specialist in DeKalb County, Georgia, began as a county competition and has now expanded statewide. I was surprised that the list of books for the high school contestants is comprised of books from 2011-12. In my mind, when I read about this event, I saw a list of classics, but if the intent is to get kids to read, this may be the better way.  Hopefully, they’ll read the classics as part of their school curriculum.
It’s disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that American 15-year-olds continue to turn in flat results in a test that measures students' proficiency in reading, math and science worldwide, failing to crack the global top 20.” What better way to get kids to read and to improve their reading skills than to make reading competitive? I love this quote from Helen Ruffin: “Students who read become adults who lead.” If participants in the Reading Bowl achieve even a few of the benefits outlined on the website, their preparation time will be time well spent:
Students will:
Increase standardized test scores
Increase reading comprehension
Develop an appreciation for literature
Enhance verbal communication skills
Promote cooperation
Build self-esteem
Develop team spirit
Improve academic achievement
The eighth grader in the article describes herself as a voracious reader who checks out two-three books one day, reads them and returns them the next.  Her parents had to implement reading rules so she wouldn’t get lost in a book before completing her homework or read at breakfast and be late for school.  I smiled when I read her description because it reminded me of myself in my younger days and still a bit today. As a child, I was occasionally caught reading in bed with a flashlight.  I’ve always been a reader and carry books wherever I go.  Heaven forbid I’d have 15 minutes in a waiting room without reading material or worse, be stuck in an airport.
Perhaps all of us who worry about the demise of reading will take heart in this story.