by Kirby Lindsay
On Wednesday, February 24, a very important, and very popular, all-school assembly will take place at B.F. Day Elementary. This is the first level of the Global Reading Challenge - a program of Seattle Public Library (SPL) for Seattle Public School students – and it will feature 4th & 5th graders, divided into teams of seven students each, responding to questions about 10 specific books.
According to School Librarian Gil Hedges-Blanquez (or ‘Mr. Gil’ as he is known to simply everyone at the school), B.F. Day has participated in this competition since 2002, when they won the entire Challenge. Then, in 2009, they took first place again!
Mary Palmer, Children’s Librarian at the SPL Downtown Branch, reported that 45 Seattle schools will take part in the Challenge this year, including Greenwood, Broadview-Thompson, and John Stanford International (a complete list is available on the Global Reading home page).
The list of books team members must read comes from the SPL, who posted the books for 2010 last November. According to Palmer, librarians, teachers and students can give input on which titles are selected, although the books must fit four criteria:
- available in paperback, in mass quantities
- the final list must reflect an even split of girl/boy interests
- variety of reading levels
- represent a diversity of backgrounds
Mr. Gil praised the titles selected as wonderfully diverse. To get on a team, Mr. Gil explained, B.F. Day teachers require that students read all ten books. From there, he has recommended that teams divide up the list, and members select two titles on which to specialize.
When the first competition begins, Mr. Gil reported, “it’s quite a spectacle!” As teams compete in semi-final rounds, younger students and classmates cheer on chosen favorites. Everyone picks a team – by friendship, kinship or a ‘Reading Buddies’ relationship – to cheer on. Competitors answer questions – true or false, multiple choice and short answer – in written form, and after consultation among team members.
The top two teams at B.F. Day will compete against two teams from each of the other Seattle Schools – and the top two teams will emerge. These teams will proceed to the global portion of the competition – a ‘face off’ against two finalist teams from schools of Fraser Valley and Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.
Originally, Seattle Schools competed against schools from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Palmer started the program in Kalamazoo, where she once worked, and brought it with her to Seattle. “It just became too large,” to organize with Michigan, Palmer admitted. Competition against the B.C. schools has proven easier, as the teams never travel to B.C. The final competitions take place by video conferencing.
“The kids look forward to it,” Mr. Gil repeated several times. The program promotes teamwork, reading and writing plus encouraging younger kids, through a truly fun atmosphere. He voiced concern over budget cuts jeopardizing a truly outstanding opportunity, but Palmer quickly pointed out that the Challenge isn’t funded by the SPL budget.
Instead, generous outside sources – Target, the Seattle Public Library Foundation, Northwest Literacy Foundation and the Ballard Rotary Club – sponsor this program. As Palmer expressed her gratitude to organizations that make the Challenge possible, she also admitted, “it makes a sport of reading.”
So, Fremonsters everywhere may don their cheerleading gear and root on our favorite team – GO B.F. DAY!!
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©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.