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Local readers earn state berths
Joseph Martin Elementary Kneeling (l-r): Zac Rasmussen, Jordan Hughes, Mallory Roberts, Alexis Keith Back (l-r): Sue Tolley, Josh Winton, Rebecca Smith, Elaine Walker, Laryn Montgomery, Ariana Pilozo, Kathleen Valentine. - photo by Photo provided.
Two of the three teams that represented Liberty County schools in last weekend's regional reading bowl have earned slots in the state competition.
Students from Joseph Martin Elementary School and a combined Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School team won first places in the Southern Regional Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl at Valdosta State University on Saturday. A team from Snelson-Golden Middle School also made a strong showing, educators said.
The students had to get up early Saturday to load on buses for the drive to Valdosta, but their work didn't begin then, according to schools spokeswoman Demere Sikes.
"Their dedication did not begin at 5:30 a.m. the day of the bowl," she said. "These students began preparing for the reading bowl much earlier in the school year."
Each team member read three or more books from lists of books nominated for the Georgia Book Award or the Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers. They then worked with their school media specialists, teachers and parent volunteers discussing plots and symbolism, and answering practice questions for months prior to the regional bowl. The teams also had to earn the right to represent Liberty County by winning the county reading bowl.
The teams also got community support. Jim Floyd, president of The Heritage Bank, volunteered to supply team shirts for the Liberty Cats (high school) Reading Bowl Team, materials for team banners and buy lunch for all three teams at the bowl.
"By 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 9, it was clear that their work paid off," Sikes said. "With 12 counties in attendance at the Southern Regional Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, each of the schools showed an outstanding performance."
Joseph Martin Elementary's team was coached by Elaine Walker, Rebecca Smith and Kathleen Valentine. Snelson-Golden's team was coached by Kathy Webb, Rachel O'Neal and Mellanie Crowther. The Liberty Cats were coached by Kay Williams and Diana Clark.
After winning their grade levels at region, the Joseph Martin team and Liberty Cats will travel to Athens to compete against the other regional winners at the Georgia Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl March 1. The bowl will be part of the Georgia Children's Literature Conference.
Helen Ruffin, a media specialist for whom the reading bowl is named, is known for saying, "Students who read become adults who lead."

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