Literacy wins at Reading Olympics

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

Students from Valley Elementary School in the Bensalem School District are shown getting ready to participate in this year’s Reading Olympics event. This team had students participating both in-person and virtually. The virtual participants can be seen on the screen in the background.

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) was delighted to bring back the Bucks County Reading Olympics for its 27th year. Held annually in April, it had to be cancelled last year due to the sudden implementation of COVID restrictions, however this year everyone involved was determined to hold this wildly popular event. For 2021, the Bucks County Reading Olympics was carefully reformatted so that it could be held virtually, and the Bucks IU was excited to have 96 schools participating (1,900+ students) representing all 13 Bucks County Public School districts, one Career Technical Center, and 10 non-public schools.

Reading Olympics is designed to encourage Bucks County students to read more by helping them discover the joy and excitement of reading and talking about books. Using a team format, over several months’ students get to share the challenge of growing the number of books they read as well as increasing their exposure to a variety of writing genres and topics. Reading Olympics is structured around the use of an age-appropriate (elementary, middle, and high school based) list of 25 books. Teachers, reading specialists and librarians work together to develop new book lists every year that offer a broad base of subjects and styles that will appeal to the widest audience.

This year there were 115 elementary school teams (1,300 students), 46 middle school teams (520 students) and 17 high school teams (150 students). The teams, led by teachers and librarians, are encouraged to read all 25 books on their list by working through them together and sharing their reading experiences, interpretations and comprehension. The program allows a great deal of flexibility as to how each team leader specifically runs the program with their students but is carefully structured to achieve the same objective — to get kids reading! Due to COVID restrictions, this year each school/district determined if their students met either virtually, in-person, or as a hybrid combination of both as they worked through their book lists and shared in preparation of the final celebration event.

A Celebration of Reading
The conclusion of the Reading Olympics program is an event inclusive of all the participating teams. For three rounds, a moderator leads the student teams through a set of questions about the books on their lists. Their responses are scored, and all three rounds totaled. Final awards are issued accordingly, with all participants receiving ribbons, and done in the spirit of having completed their lists with a great understanding of what they read versus a competition of teams against one another.

This year’s virtual approach utilized Kahoot!, a game-based online learning platform through which the final celebration event was able to be organized and accessed by all the teams. The Kahoot! program was formatted to allow for the competition’s normal three rounds of questions to be facilitated, moderated and scored virtually. While the virtual experience was not the same as in-person, everyone participating felt it was still a great experience and highly successful.