Third Grade Reading Challenge helps kids embrace literacy, teamwork

If you intend to read the next sentence aloud, take a deep breath.

The Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem, Third Grade Reading Challenge is underway for 2020.

The annual Third Grade Reading Challenge encourages students to have fun and enjoy reading while building literacy and teamwork skills, said event organizer Joy Feldman, Lead Librarian for Early Literacy at Sno-Isle Libraries. Team members read six books chosen by Sno-Isle Libraries staff members, then test their knowledge of each book in a series of in-school quiz bowls that run through February, with semi-final and final rounds in March.

Library staff always tries to include one or two books by local authors each year. This year’s books are “Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too!” by Henry Winkler (yes, that Henry Winkler), “Juana & Lucas” by Juana Medina, “Key Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone” by Eric Luper, “Life According to Og the Frog” by Betty Birney, “Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows” by Asia Citro of Seattle, and “Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors of Bainbridge Island.

Selfors will visit nine of the competing schools in January to talk to students and coaches about her book.

For five years, the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation has supported the Third Grade Reading Challenge by providing books, prizes and T-shirts to participants.

“The Third Grade Reading Challenge is near and dear to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation,” said Foundation Executive Director Paul Pitkin. “Few programs exemplify our commitment to lifelong learning like the Reading Challenge, and seeing the children work together while becoming passionate about reading is truly inspiring.”

New this year, Sno-Isle Libraries is providing unlimited simultaneous access in January and February to eBook copies of “Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows” and eBook and audiobook copies of “Wedgie & Gizmo,” said Mike Hawkins, Electronic Resources Librarian with Sno-Isle Libraries. Any competitor who wants to read either of those titles won’t have to wait to access them.

The 2019 Reading Challenge had 193 teams from 51 schools. This year, 226 teams from 60 elementary schools in the Arlington, Coupeville, Darrington, Edmonds, Everett, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe, Mukilteo, Oak Harbor, Snohomish, South Whidbey and Stanwood-Camano school districts are competing.

Sno-Isle Libraries staff work with each school to coordinate Reading Challenge activities and competitions. In October, schools recruit students to form teams. Each school can have up to five teams, and each team must have no more than eight members. Each team has its own coach.

In November, local Sno-Isle Libraries community staff delivered books to schools. Now the teams are reading, practicing and building teamwork, Feldman said.

The quiz competition has three rounds of eight questions each. A Sno-Isle Libraries staff presenter reads each question twice, then teams have 30 seconds to discuss their answer and deliver it to the presenter. Each correct answer is worth five points. Teams that finish in a tie enter a sudden-death overtime that ends when one team answers incorrectly.

Each school’s top-scoring team advances to one of eight regional semi-final quizzes scheduled for March 3-16. The eight top-scoring teams from the semi-finals will face off at the final quiz, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 23, at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. “Zoey and Sassafras” series author Asia Citro will be special guest.

Feldman points to research that shows reading ability in third grade can be a tipping point for later academic and life success. Students who don’t read at grade level are less likely to finish high school, so the Third Grade Reading Challenge emphasizes reading quality over quantity.

“We say, ‘You only need to read one book,’ ” Feldman said. “It may be a big accomplishment for a struggling reader to read just one book. I can relate to that as someone who was a struggling reader.”

Reading Challenge coaching and teamwork can help those struggling students become more proficient and enjoy reading, she said. Competitors learn to become well-rounded readers since they won’t know what questions they’ll face about each book during the knowledge quizzes. Some team members will focus on only one or two books and become “experts” on those titles.

Students, teachers and parents see the many benefits from the Reading Challenge.

“I had some students join this that I knew would, and some that surprised me,” one teacher said. “I loved watching them be excited about feeling special and a part of something. They bonded a lot throughout this process. It also made reading a really positive experience.”

Sno-Isle Libraries surveys participants each year. As a result of the Third-Grade Reading Challenge:

  • 92 percent of participating students said they have more confidence in their reading ability
  • 93 percent of students said they felt more part of a team
  • 93 percent of parents said their student enjoyed reading more

“I started a huge book and it was easy,” one student competitor said.

“We as a family read more due to this challenge,” one parent said.

“I really love the Reading Challenge and I hope it goes on for generations,” one past participant said.

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