by Britney Morgan
Saturday, January 31, 2015 marked Atlanta Public Schools’ 10th year participating in the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, a statewide competition with a quick-action game format that tests knowledge on selected, award-winning books. Created for students in grades four through twelve, the scholastic competition was started several years ago by former DeKalb County media specialist Helen Ruffin to encourage students to read.
Warren Goetzel, Media Services Coordinator for Atlanta Public Schools, introduced APS schools to the bowl in 2005 and saw it as a great opportunity to engage students in reading and literature. “The competitive nature of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl helps drive students to read,” he stated.
Coaches and their teams spent hours reading and practicing in preparation for the reading bowl. Students were required to read books that were Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees at the elementary and middle school levels, and Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Books nominees at the high school level.
Garden Hills Elementary reading bowl coach, Paige Lefont, stated that her team met weekly to discuss books and answer practice questions. She also stated her student’s excitement and anticipation during each round permeated throughout the room and that they truly enjoyed testing the comprehension and attention to detail during the event.
Maya Dickson, Garden Hills Elementary reading bowl team member said, “I feel really good about Saturday’s success and I’m excited about the upcoming competition and would like to advance to the state tournament.” She also shared, “I am a really big reader and reading all of these books lets you learn about new things such as ‘Boy on the Wooden Box’ is about the Holocaust and ‘Lions on Little Rock’ is about segregation.”
Over the years, Goetzel and his team of volunteers and media specialists have worked to grow more interest among students and they have been very successful. APS started competing in the reading bowl in 2005 with only two teams. This year, forty-two schools competed in the APS Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl at Drew Charter School and there was overwhelming support from families, community members and staff with approximately 1,000 attendees.
Students competed in a total of six rounds. Cumulative points for all rounds determined the winners at each school level.
At the elementary school level, Garden Hills Elementary won first place and Morris Brandon Elementary won second. At the middle school level, Sutton Middle School won first place and APS had its first ever tie-breaker as Atlanta Neighborhood Charter and Wesley International went head-to-head with Wesley International coming out on top, placing second. Grady High placed first and Carver High School came in second at the high school level.
These 1st and 2nd place winners of the APS Helen Ruffin Reading bowl will proceed to the Regional Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl to represent APS on February 7, 2015 @ Clayton State University.