Lake Stevens team tops in Third Grade Reading Challenge

With more than 50 third-graders on stage, hearing a pin drop seemed unlikely, but that was the scene at the finals of the 2016 Sno-Isle Libraries Third-Grade Reading Challenge.

Teams of students from seven elementary schools across Snohomish and Island counties participated in the quiz-style program, Tuesday, March 29, at the Lake Stevens High School Performing Arts Center. All the teams were on top of their games. Following three scheduled rounds of questions, it took 11 tiebreaking stumpers before the Sunnycrest Elementary “Wild Horses” from Lake Stevens School District emerged as the top scoring team.

Going down to the wire with Sunnycrest were the Angry Books team from Cedar Way Elementary in the Edmonds School District and the Wildcats from Discovery Elementary in the Mukilteo School District. The other teams in the finals were: the Cedarhome Elementary Word Chompers, Stanwood School District; Broad View Elementary Reading Cheetahs, Oak Harbor School District; Brier Elementary Book Busters, Edmonds School District, and the Machias Elementary Bob-Nanas, Snohomish School District.

The Sunnycrest Wild Horses team members, all from teacher Heidi Scott's class are: 
Grace Cook, Ryedan Reed, Logan Merkel, Carson Burley, Sarah Carpenter, Coren Coe, Autumn Bardsley
and Jessica Garingo.

Staying quiet is part of the challenge event to prevent distraction and giving away or influencing an answer. The team members gather their chairs into a tight circle as the quiz starts. Team captains are chosen and a runner designated to bring a team’s answer to the judges’ table. And “runner” is a misnomer, because quiet walking is required.

Even the celebrations are quiet. As correct answers are announced, team members raise their hands and shake their fingers in support.

Quiet doesn’t mean a lack of student enthusiasm.

“It’s just fun to see the excitement and how much the students enjoy reading,” said Pam Murkerson, library para-educator at Sunnycrest Elementary. Murkerson, who works with librarian Jill Haack on the reading-challenge project, said the challenge process all starts in the fall.

“We have them read the books, then they find websites with quizzes, they write their own questions and ask each other and we meet in the library and do practice challenges,” Murkerson said. “We even have the older grades come back to tell the third-graders about the challenge and what to expect.”

The reading challenge identifies six books from which quiz questions are drawn. The books this year were:

  • “Adventures of a South Pole Pig,” by Chris Kurtz
  • “The Great Cake Mystery,” by Alexander McCall Smith
  • “The Lemonade War,” by Jacqueline Davies
  • “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” by Beverly Cleary
  • “Odd, Weird, & Little,” by Patrick Jennings
  • “The Sasquatch Escape,” by Suzanne Selfors

Authors Selfors and Jennings were on stage as judges for the final, along with Chuck Pratt, managing librarian at the Stanwood Library.

The reading challenge is the brainchild of Jane López-Santillana, children’s librarian at the Oak Harbor Library.

“It started seven years ago with just two schools on Whidbey Island. This year, we had 46 schools and 192 teams with 1,312 students participate,” López-Santillana said. “Third grade is an important point in reading development. The reading challenge is an opportunity to get those 8- and 9-year-olds engaged and excited about reading.”

Parents seem to like what the challenge does for their children, too. A post-challenge parents survey brought these comments:

“My son always hated reading and getting him to read was always a chore … I've seen him go from despising reading to loving it.  He willingly signed up for the challenge and read longer than his required nightly reading so he could participate in the challenge.”

“A great experience for my daughter.  Builds confidence getting up on the stage.  Encourages them to read and work together as a team.”

 “It taught her to be diligent in note taking and to understand the words she is reading.  It also prompted more conversation between her and me as she shared what she was reading.”

“His pride in reading and being on a team has increased his confidence.”

“My daughter loves to read!  She tends to be pretty quiet, and isn't into team sports.  This is a great experience for her to shine at something she's passionate about while getting a great team experience, too.  Thanks!”

The Third Grade Reading Challenge is officially known as “The Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem Third Grade Reading Challenge” and made possible by funding from the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, the Northwest Literacy Foundation and Howarth Trust.

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