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Reading bowl fires up students
Bookworms compete in buzzer beater
0120 Reading Bowl secondary
Frank Long Elementary reading bowl team members and coach celebrate Friday as they accept their second-place prize while wearing Dr. Seuss garb. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

First: Lyman Hall
Second: Frank Long
First: Midway
Second: Lewis Frasier
First: Bradwell Institute
Second: Liberty County

It’s fierce competition. Questions range from “In the book ‘What Comes After,’ what does Iris do to help her deal with grief after her father dies?” to “In the book ‘My Life in Pink and Green,’ how does Lucy keep the hair gels arranged?”
The answers may seem obscure, but for Liberty County bookworms, the annual Liberty County Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl is a chance to show literary prowess and detailed retention.
This year’s competition was Friday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center in Flemington. It boasted more than a new venue: Several years’ reigning elementary champion Joseph Martin Elementary School did not place, allowing other schools to take the glory. Bradwell Institute toppled Liberty County High School for the first time in several years.
Decked in “Cat in the Hat” top-hats and red T-shirts, Frank Long Elementary School’s team jumped for joy as they heard they took second place.
Lyman Hall Elementary School’s seven-student team, wearing yellow T-shirts with their names embroidered jersey-style on the back, hooped and hollered upon hearing they were first. Last year they placed second.
The team clamored around Lyman Hall Dolphins coach, media specialist Diana Anderson, as she called Assistant Principal Brenda Clark to share the news.
“We won!” the students screamed in unison.
“We made history for our school,” team veteran Angelie Gallardo said. “This is our school’s first time getting first place.”
Anderson said her school’s team was open to all fourth- and fifth-graders. In October, they began reading books, writing questions based on the texts and taking Accelerated Reader tests. The frequency accelerated as the bowl drew nearer, and the bar for participation became more stringent.
“And we’re the only ones that survived!” fourth-grader Hailey Best interjected.
“It feels great to win,” fifth-grader Devonte King said. “It’s good to be the first ones in the school to get this first-place trophy.”
One team from each of the county’s K-12 schools squared off in classic quiz-bowl competition. It questioned their literary recollections of books from the Georgia Book Awards nominees and Ga. Peach Teen Book Award nominees. The statewide competition, open to all students grades four through 12, first began as a DeKalb County initiative by elementary school media specialist Helen Ruffin. First- and second-place winners will advance to the Feb. 2 regional bowl in Valdosta.
Local middle- and high-school teams competed later in the day.
Middle school results were the same as last year, with Midway coming in first and Lewis Frasier placing second.
LFMS media specialist Dr. Sandy Jennings said the school will have daily practices to prepare for Valdosta. “It’s competitive,” she said.
In high school, Bradwell Tigers bested the Liberty Panthers for the first time in several years, and seniors Kiana Brown, Susan Mason and Tyrique Golphin beamed.
“We haven’t done this good in a while,” Golphin said.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten Liberty since our freshman year,” Brown added.
The three seniors have competed since middle school and say strategy is part of success.
Their strategy under media specialists Melissa McCallar and Nikki Lukkarinen is to have everyone be an expert in four of the 20 required books. Team members also can read other books as a back-up.
“It’s a year-long commitment for them, and they didn’t lose a round,” McCallar said.
Now they’ll start a two-week boot camp.
Panther bowl team member freshman Clayton Grant has participated since fifth grade. He and senior teammate Jabrell Thomas said the team of eight meets on Mondays to discuss the books.
“It’s stable,” Grant said. “I get to be with the team, and because of an injury, I don’t get to do sports, and this is just my team.”
The Panthers are coy about their strategy.
“Generally I like to read books, and it’s fun. It’s a team,” Thomas said. “We sit there and talk about the books that we read.”

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