April 11, 2017 Hope Scibal

Name That Book! Making Readers Stars

Reading for the joy of reading. It’s one of the many special highlights of a Grymes education. Of course, learning to read and reading to learn are both essential components to any elementary school’s curriculum and program; but truly loving to read for fun, that’s something that’s unique to Grymes. Whether through Silent Sustained Reading time carved into the daily schedule at all grade levels (pass by the fourth grade classroom and you will often find the students curled up on a beanbag or in the loft with a book), through teachers reading stories aloud to their students during lunch, study hall or during an indoor recess on a rainy day, or through the excitement of a weekly Library class that includes games, crafts and fun around all kinds of books, reading for pleasure is a part of the routine here.

And, what’s truly special about this wonderful learning community, at Grymes reading is not only fun. It’s cool.

The competition is designed to get students of all ages excited about reading. And, boy, does it!

To me, the best illustration of this is the “Name That Book” assembly, which we enjoyed last Friday afternoon just before dismissal. An annual tradition that pits Red Team against White Team, the “Name That Book” assembly is a high stakes competition about reading. With questions written by Librarian Teresa Huelskoetter, Upper School English teacher Dana Bost and Upper School History teacher Rod McLeod to reflect a wide range of reading abilities, genres, and interests, the competition is designed to get students of all ages excited about reading. And, boy, does it.

The assembly begins with questions specially designed for JK – 2nd grade  readers and continues with questions for the 3rd and 4th graders before finishing with questions directed at the Upper Schoolers.  For the Upper School portion of the competition, each team picks a group of representatives to answer book-based questions for points in true game show fashion. The representatives work collaboratively as a team to come up with answers with a ticking clock counting down time – and a buzzing scoreboard when time’s up. When stumped or in need of help, the team can use one of their two “lifelines” to call on students in the audience to chime in, and if a question is answered incorrectly, the opposing team gets a try at it.

The excitement of achieving a correct answer is akin to scoring a buzzer beater in overtime. Points are given to the team that answers a question correctly within the designated timeframe, and the stakes for the competition are high. The team with the most correct answers at the end of the assembly has its points directed to the final Field Day tally.

At Grymes, there is no greater prize!

At Grymes, there’s no stigma associated with being a “book worm” or with loving to read.

To say that the atmosphere in the room during this assembly is charged with excitement is quite an understatement. The decibel level of the cheering is so high that parents can hear it from the carpool pickup line at the front circle. As a parent who came wandering into this assembly from the pick up line myself a few years ago (I remember wondering if Justin Beiber or some such pop star was visiting the school), I can say from experience that it’s shocking when the realization hits you that this level of excitement is about books! It’s truly a wonder to see children eagerly calling out the names of characters, details about plot twists and names of authors, and cheering each other on for it.

But, even more incredible to me, is the fact that at the center of this excitement – truly, the stars of the show – are the readers. At Grymes there’s no stigma associated with being a “book worm” or with loving to read. Far from it, and in this assembly in particular, the students who are readers are treated like rock stars, celebrated for their love of books and chosen for the high honor of representing their team. Readers are given the opportunity to shine, and with so many hands raised high in the audience, it’s hard to tell which students are not readers. Almost every student in the room is actively engaged, excited and buzzing with enthusiasm about books.

And that is something to get excited about.

To me, the “Name That Book” assembly is just one of many examples of the Grymes mission in action. What better way to “launch learners” than to instill in children a love of reading for fun? It’s such a special product of a Grymes education, and a wonderful feature of this school’s unique community, that reading for pleasure is not only cherished – it’s cool.