Trip to the top of reading challenge took time

cake photo
Cake was part of the pizza party that the Rockin’ Raccoons of Stanwood Elementary. earned as top scoring team in the 2018 Sno-Isle Libraries third grade reading challenge. More photos

Going from three classes of fidgety third-graders to the top-scoring team in a field of 50 in Sno-Isle Libraries’ annual reading challenge doesn’t happen overnight.

Let’s just say, it’s more of a journey.

“It started with talking with my colleagues two years ago,” said Jenny Sepulveda, a third-grade teacher at Stanwood Elementary. The top-scoring Rockin’ Raccoons team came from Sepulveda’s class. “(The reading challenge) just seemed like a fun way to get the students engaged with reading.”

Officially labeled the “Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem Third Grade Reading Challenge,” the event is a literary trivia competition to make reading fun while also honing literacy and teamwork skills. Six books are chosen for the challenge each year. The students read and then prepare to answer questions about the books at in-school, area semifinals and the finals events in a quiz-bowl style game.

“We sent letters and emails to parents looking for coaching help,” Sepulveda said. “We had two parents step up from last year. They did the coaching. They were so excited to help, even though their children had moved on to fourth grade.

“Now, I have parents who want to come back next year. I really have to give it to the parents.”

In 2017, the three third-grade classes at the school were able to form two teams. This year, each class formed a team.

“There was a weekly gathering of all three teams during lunch in my classroom,” Sepulveda said. Those practices were conducted like the competitions. “The students on the teams are good readers, but they had to figure out how to work together and respect each other.”

For Vicky Beatty, children’s librarian at the Stanwood Library, the reading challenge is a connection with students and teachers.

“I go to the schools in the fall and give an orientation to the library,” Beatty said. “A lot of the students from the schools come into the library all the time.”

The reading challenge started nine years ago on Whidbey Island with just two schools. This year, teams from 50 elementary schools across Snohomish and Island counties participated. Ever since Sno-Isle Libraries decided a few years after inception to expand the program, Beatty said she’s been talking up it up to teachers in Stanwood.

“I totally get it (the teachers) don’t have any time,” Beatty said.  “I think they feel it is fun for the kids. We do a variety of different books and reading levels that appeal to a wide range of kids. They see how the students like reading and participating.”

Enough time or not, Sepulveda says she and her colleagues are planning to participate again next year: “Absolutely, now we have a title we have to defend.”

The reading challenge is made possible by funding from the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and the Northwest Literacy Foundation. The Edmonds Bookshop also supports the reading challenge.