Jackson County School System rocked the reading bowl again March 3, and the Gum Springs Elementary and West Jackson Middle schools’ teams are headed to the state competition in the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.
After advancing from the East Region competition in Augusta Feb. 10, the two teams beat all comers to take first-place honors at their respective grade levels in the Division 2 contest in Statesboro.
State finals will take place as part of the 49th annual Conference on Children’s Literature, set for March 23-24 in Athens.
Only first-place winners move on from the division level to the state — and the WJMS team had to endure some disappointment and suspense before having the right trophy in their hands.
After the team was initially awarded third place, another coach told WJMS coach Brittany Bennett she needed to ask about the placement because the tallies seemed to be off. Sure enough, the placements had been reversed, trophies were rearranged, and WJMS was on to state.
Middle school team members include David Bennett, Abigail Schwindt, Syon Schlect, Will Stevens, Kellen Salom, Kendall Brown, and Abey Martin.
Current members of the elementary school team are Ella Cobb, Julia Crowthers, Allie Hanley, Addie Lovejoy, Maci Martin, and Emerson Wright.
The GSES team won the elementary-level state title in 2016, and several members of the current WJMS team were part of that group.
The event is open to fourth- through 12th-graders across the state. Elementary and middle school students must read the current Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees; high school students read the current nominees for Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers.
The books change each year, and the questions may be as simple as the author’s name or as detailed as the number of buses used to rescue Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
The competitions have consisted of multiple rounds of 10 questions, though that will change slightly in the state competition, with just two rounds. First through third places will be awarded at each level.
Volunteers coaching the GSES team are media specialist Jill Weldon and English-as-a-second-language teacher Shelly Salom. Bennett, a WJMS math and science teacher, is assisted by Kate Martin, a parent volunteer.