The annual 2016 Delaware County Reading Olympics concluded its final segment last Thursday with the elementary school division in which 171 students competed from around the county at Radnor High School.
In many classrooms throughout the high school, parents gathered around two competing teams, comprised of 12 students, resembling a miniature coliseum where the teams answer questions about any of the 40 books they were instructed to read.
Michelle Wetzel, a librarian at Radnor High School, was involved in the book selection for high school students, but helped with the facilitation of each grade-division. Wetzel said the Reading Olympics was created to promote a love of reading among students who live in a time where video games are most popular.
“It’s a celebration for reading books and working together as teams to foster a culture of reading,” Wetzel said, an avid reader herself.
Josh Hanlon, an educational technology specialist for the Delaware County Intermediate Unit (DCIU), echoed Wetzel’s sentiments.
“It’s refreshing to see kids excited about reading with all the things we immerse ourselves into in our day-to-day lives in terms of tech,” Hanlon said, while also expressing gratitude to the teachers who helped students prepare in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week.
A “culture of reading” is something that many students seem to ignore while living in an age of video games, but many educators, like Hanlon and Wetzel, want to see a balance between the leisure activities.
Students begin preparing as early as last June, according to Wetzel, when they were initially given a list of 40 books, selected by English teachers and librarians, to be read in their assembled groups of 12. In their groups, students individually assume the responsibility of reading books and meeting weekly throughout the school-year to discuss the books amongst their peers.
For high schoolers, Wetzel made the readings an actual experience by connecting with authors through Skype and even treating students to a fencing lesson for the book, “The Young Elites.”
Sharon Hsu, a Radnor High School freshman, said the experience had “a good atmosphere” and was “fun.” She competed in the high school division days prior, but volunteered to guide elementary school students and their parents through the competition by giving e children “pep talks” for encouragement.
“It’s like browsing the internet or playing outside,” Hsu said about her methods of preparing. “Whenever I had free time, I’ll grab a book.”
The high school freshman said she was already a bibliophile, but had to juggle reading for the competition and schoolwork, reading up to 10 books. Hsu jokingly said academics took a backseat, but assured she did catch-up.
Elementary school students prepared by meeting before or after school-hours for book club-esque sessions, discussing main ideas and overviews of the books they’ve read. They also wrote reviews for the library catalogue and quizzed each other to which Wetzel described as “cute.”
Billy Collins, Sr., a father of a daughter, Emily, and son, Billy, Jr., who each competed in the middle school and elementary school levels, respectively, said he was impressed with the hard work his children put forth.
“My daughter and son did a lot,” Collins said. “(Billy) put forth as much effort as he would for basketball.”