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Reading up a bowl tourney
Students strut literary knowledge at reading bowl
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Members of the Joseph Martin Elementary School get ready for photographs after receiving their first place trophy for elementary schools. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

Liberty County Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Contest winners

• Elementary
1st: Joseph Martin
2nd: Lyman Hall

• Middle
1st: Midway Middle
2nd: Lewis Frasier Middle

• High
1st: Liberty County High
2nd: Bradwell Institute

For 124 students competing in the sixth annual Liberty County Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl last Friday, the devil was in the details.

One team from each of the county’s K-12 schools and a middle- and high-school team from First Presbyterian Christian Academy put their literary recollection to use in the classic quiz-bowl competition, where specific answers dominated the questioning.

Liberty County High School coach and media specialist Amy Rhoades said she anticipated the types of questions based on previous years and integrated that into their practice strategy.

“We have people who read the books over the summer, and they write practice questions,” Rhoades said. “And we drill those questions over and over and over again.”

The LCHS team of six practiced every week after school, with some students specializing in specific books and others working with the entire list, Rhoades said.

And though the bowl does not address larger themes within the stories, some of the practice sessions felt more like book clubs, where the students analyzed literary attributes to delve deeper — one of the ways the bowl gets students hooked on reading.

“It continues to instill the love of reading, and when we send them out in the world, we want them to continue to consume knowledge,” Rhoades said.

LCSS media coordinator Jaime Rearley also said the bowl encourages students to share their literary experiences.

“It encourages the children to read, and they get a chance to talk about what they’re reading with their friends, and it creates a type of book club,” Rearley said. “It’s a motivator to get them to read.”

The bowl, which began as a DeKalb County initiative by elementary school media specialist Helen Ruffin about 13 years ago, is now a statewide competition open to all students grades four through 12.

The first- and second-place winners from Friday’s county bowl will advance to the South Region Bowl, which will be Feb. 4 at Valdosta State University.

Questions for elementary and middle school students are based on titles nominated for the 2011-12 Georgia Children’s Book Award, while high school students are quizzed from Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers nominees for the same year.

Elementary titles include lighter fare, like Shelley Pearsall’s “All Shook Up” about a boy who discovers his father has become an Elvis impersonator and stories of adversity, such as “Mockingbird,” a Kathryn Erskine novel about a 10-year-old girl coming to terms with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” the first in a futuristic dystopian trilogy with a major motion picture on the horizon, is on the middle school list. High school material includes April Lindner’s “Jane,” a modern take on “Jane Eyre” that places the protagonist as an orphaned nanny entranced by a rock-star employer.

Team sizes range from five to 10 students, and each school handles its own team assembly and practice protocols, Rearley said.

Sue Tolley, Joseph Martin Elementary School principal, said three coaches led the school’s team of seven, and they have practiced since November every day during lunch.

Glowing over the school’s sixth-straight win, Tolley said the school’s goal is to make it to state this year.

“They can’t wait,” she said. “We’ve been to every level but state, this year we want to go all the way.”

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