Young readers battle over literature at Hopkins

The entire fifth grade at Hopkins Elementary convened in the school’s cafeteria Friday for the school-wide “Battle of the Books,” supporting nine of their peers as they competed in a jeopardy-style contest testing their reading skills.

In her eleventh year at Hopkins, library media specialist Carolyn Moul said the contest was a preliminary round, preparing the bright competitors for a larger, county-wide version of the event involving Chalkley and Falling Creek elementary schools after their return from Spring Break. The three Hopkins’ teams that competed Friday will then combine into one and compete as a single entity against the other schools.

“It increases their love for reading … so it helps them appreciate literature,” she said. “It challenges them, motivates them to read and gives them experience being in front of a group. It gives them confidence, but mostly it challenges them to read better, higher quality books and more literature. And they really love the competition aspect.”

According to Moul, the nine chosen for the teams had by February read at least ten of the 25 “excellent” books picked by the Hopkins faculty in October; and “benchmarks” given throughout the year were implemented by teachers to assess which students had read the books. Early spring marked the students’ start of preparing for the event, the nine chosen ones drilled with questions and details about the 25 books.

“Battle of the Books” has been an annual event at Hopkins for the past nine years and, for Moul, is quite the incentive for younger students to hit the books.

“It’s something that fourth-graders look forward to doing when they’re in fifth grade because they will be attending the next competition,” said Moul, Hopkins hosting the event after the break. “They will get 10 books to read over the summer and some of them will be very motivated.”

And then there is Leah Claudio, reading specialist at Hopkins, naturally an advocate of reading because young students need a “solid foundation of reading in order to go forward in their career …” Since students first learn about the competition from the time they are first-graders, hearing about it through announcements and such, the curiosity grows as does their love for reading literature.

“It’s very important that they have a solid foundation in reading in order to go forward in their careers … This is just a motivational piece that we offer to the fourth graders to start getting them inspired with it,” said Claudio.

For Donna Venable, who has been the head principal at Hopkins for four years, the annual event reflects on the school itself.

“I’m just impressed that it’s an event we have in our schools that really helps (them) build literacy skills,” she said. “I think that’s a major focus of our job at the elementary level, and to have these fifth-graders be avid readers and to be able to participate in a competition like this, I think, means we’re doing the right thing.”

For more information on future events at Hopkins Elementary, contact the school at 743-3665.

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