30 years of encouraging the love of reading

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

When students read more, they open themselves to worlds of information, ideas and knowledge. The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) facilitates the Bucks County Reading Olympics program countywide and is celebrating the program’s 30th anniversary. The purpose of this annual event is to encourage children to read more, explore a greater variety of books, and to cultivate their enjoyment and excitement for reading.

In 1994, the Bucks County Reading Olympics began through the efforts of a small group of Bucks County Librarians with 64 participating teams. Thirty years later, including a few years of virtual programming during the COVID pandemic, there are 260 teams participating…a 306% increase! The 2024 teams represent 3,800 students who are expected to read a total of 30,000 books.

“Seeing these students be so excited about their reading accomplishments is what makes this program so great,” stated Pam Dinan, Bucks IU Supervisor of Education who leads the Bucks County Reading Olympics. “These students blossom as their worlds expand with the exploration of more books and subject matter content.”

How Does Reading Olympics Work?

Schools facilitate teams at three levels: elementary, middle/junior high and high school. Each team consists of eight to sixteen students who agree to read from lists of 25 books appropriate for their age and reading level. The book lists are prepared in the spring of the previous year by interested teachers and librarians. Student teams meet all year to discuss and review the books together.

The Reading Olympics program begins each fall with teams gathering regularly to read and discuss books. The program culminates in April/May with a special evening event where the teams participate in three rounds of questioning centered on the books and their  understanding of them.

Members of every team receive a ribbon based on the number of points their group earns demonstrating their expertise and knowledge of the books they read. No teams are ever eliminated — just participating and reading more makes everyone a winner!

Jason Goldberg, from the technology team of Mill Creek Elementary in the Bristol Township School District, stated, “Not only is Reading Olympics a fun activity, but it also encourages students to read. Even better are the conversations students have about the books! The students continue to stop me in the hall to share their favorite parts of the books!”

Volunteer Support

Reading Olympics is a program that “takes a village” to make happen each year. More than 600 volunteers assist by working as moderators, scorekeepers and team leaders. For the 2024 events, ten different locations had to be arranged to accommodate the 260 total teams involved (six locations were used for elementary level events and four for middle/junior high and high school levels).

“Books help us to build bridges and tear down walls. Reading Olympics exposes students to books from many different cultures so that students can better understand differences, similarities, and honor the uniqueness among all of us,” said Michele Celona of the MaST Community Charter School.

The collaboration and cooperation among so many individuals to make this happen is amazing. Librarians, teachers, parents, students and district staff all contribute to making this event successful, for which the Bucks IU is grateful.