Reading Bowl runs on its stomach

If nothing else, we kept everyone fed.

Reading Bowl, for a quick re-cap, is a statewide competition where elementary, middle and high school students read books nominated for the Georgia Peach Award and answer questions in a quiz-bowl format. There are four levels, district, regional, divisional and state. Each team can have up to 10 members but only five at a time compete. The teams play in rounds and the number of rounds depends on the number of teams. If there are more teams than there are rounds, which usually happens in elementary and middle school, not every team plays every team. At regional a high-school team didn’t make it and everyone ended up with a bye for one round. And a long wait as they waited on the other team in case they were late and then had to refigure the schedule. But it worked out. Each round usually has 10 questions but if there aren’t many teams, they’ll do more questions in fewer rounds.

This year got off to a rocky start for Johns Creek High School. The district competition was postponed two weeks as the middle school it was being held at was socked in by ice and for some reason they couldn’t do it the next weekend. So they did it the first weekend in February. It was the weekend of the school musical and Katy was in the pit orchestra so she couldn’t make it. Another member had her first rowing meet of the season so she was out and the team captain had a college interview that day. The team only has five members and that was three. Corrine, the captain, was able to reschedule her interview.

The team did very well at district. They tied for first and lost the tie breaker by one point. Harshita knew the answer but the other team buzzed in quicker. The top two teams advance to regionals. The team always makes regionals so they were pleased to keep that up with only three players.

Corrine, Jenna and Harshita with their second-place trophy.

Regionals came next and Katy was available for that meet. Charlotte had a regatta that day her parents had paid for in advance so she was still out. With four team members, they came in second and were all kind of in shock. So it was off to divisional.

Well, folks, this is where the rubber hits the road. They were armed with snacks and ready to go.

Left is Ms. Ford, the school media specialist and coach, and Corrine, both with full bags of snacks. Not pictured is Katy’s three-dozen homebaked-from-frozen-dough cookies.

Heath and I went to cheer them on this time. I’ve been before but Heath never had.

There were six teams for each of the elementary, middle and high school level so everyone played everyone in their level in five rounds of 12 questions.

Well, these teams were good. The first round Johns Creek answered one question, the other team — Walton — got the other 11, buzzing in before the questions were completed. Yes, that is allowed. The second round they got two points and the third round they got six. All I remember next is the fifth  round. There was one question neither team knew and the other team answered all 11, buzzing in early every time.  Our Gladiators were good sports, though, after every round they passed out to snacks to the other team members and parents. I said “we may not win, but we’ll keep everyone fed.”

Ready for the first round. Corrine, Charlotte, Katy, Harshita and Jenna. Katy, Jenna and Harshita were all on the team together in middle school. Corrine is the lone senior, all the others are sophomores.

Katy answered at least one question. We did a couple of challenges. And had to call the judges’ room at one point, after the moderator found the phone. The question was something about what did a character want to be when she grew up. The other team said “she wants to draw cadavers for medical books” or something to that effect. The moderator looked at the answer, asked the score keeper and asked the buzzer moderator. They both shook their heads “no”. Then she stepped outside for a minute. Then she came in and said “I’m going to call the judges’ room. If I can find the phone”. The judges have all the questions and answers, which page the answer is found on and a stack of the books. The judges said it wasn’t acceptable. So she re-read the question for us and got as far as “in the book” when Corrine buzzed in. Corrine said “a medical illustrator” and that was deemed right. The other team challenged, saying that “drawing cadavers” was just more specific. The moderator said “it says ‘a medical illustrator, page 10’.” Well, Harshita had a copy of the book with her, on a desk right in front of me. I picked it up and turned to page 10 and the character clearly says “when I grow up  I want to be a medical illustrator”. Then goes on to talk about drawing for medical books, and research and pharmaceutical companies and that drawing dissected cadavers would get her there. Corrine said later if the moderator accepted the other team’s answer, she would have challenged. So that’s the kind of exciting thing that goes on at reading bowl.

It can be a little frustrating because some moderators are more lenient then others. In that same round, the answer to a question was “world history”. The other team answered “US History”. The moderator said it was wrong and gave it to us and our team knew. Actually, I think Katy answered that one.  The first girl said “history. American history, I think”. If she had just stopped at “history” one moderator might say “OK” and another might say “can you be more specific”. In another instance, Katy made a challenge that should have gone in her favor. The question was something like how did the people communicate and the other team said “voices … music”. The moderator should have taken her first answer, which was incorrect. Katy challenged, saying it was not voices, it was music. And the moderator (different moderator from the cadaver question) said “well, she said it within the 10 seconds”. They’re supposed to take the first answer, not the let the kids rattle off words until they hit the right one. But anyway, this ain’t exactly Jeopardy.

At the end of the last round, which they won seven-four (one question neither team knew), a judge came in to to say that there was a three-way tie and South Cobb, our opponent, was part of it. So we got sent off to the auditorium to wait.  The tie-breaker, which was for first place, was interesting. Two teams competed against each other while South Cobb competed against the clock.

While we were waiting someone came in and said there was a tie at the middle school level. So we waited. The woman running the program has been involved in this since the beginning. She attended Helen Ruffin’s funeral. Today was her birthday and she said someone asked her how she was going to spend the day and she said “at the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl”. She talked about how she wears her reading bowl jacket all over the place, including on vacation, and how many people have commented and how they would like to start something similar in their state. They would like to find a way to take this national. Since each state would have its own reading list based on the individual state awards, there are some challenges but she asked the kids to think about it. The competition actually started at the elementary level and expanded upwards as the students went into middle and then high school and wanted to continue competing. She also had some students come up and talk about what reading bowl means to them. Finally, someone came in and said the middle school results were in and the high school was “still battling it out”.

They went ahead with elementary and middle school results. They give huge first, second and third place trophies and then smaller participation trophies to the other teams. At this level, only the first place team advances.

So elementary and middle got their trophies and pictures and decided to head on out. We waited about another 15 minutes. It took an hour to get that three-way tie settled. The lady-in-charge said this has never happened before (and reading bowl is about 20 years old) and they were going to have to think about how to handle things in the future. She said the teams are just so good.

And we finally got high school results. The participation awards are no longer given in order but we knew we were fifth or sixth. Johns Creek was the first to be called and were thrilled with just having gotten this far.

Charlotte, Katy, Corrine, Harshita, Jenna, with their trophy.

Creekview High School was the first place team. They won last year, too, and came in second at state. Everyone is looking forward to next year. Corrine wants to come back as a volunteer. The others have learned that they need to be quicker thinkers — able to anticipate the second half of the question — and quicker on the buzzer. So now they know what to work on and what to expect at this level. And next year’s book list is already out.

And then it was off to Chick-fil-A for the traditional after-competition lunch. I thought we were going to the same CFA they went to after regionals as the two hosting schools were close together. They one they went to that time was one of the fancy ones with a sit-down restaurant area (as in with a waitperson and ceramic plates and all) and a bigger menu. I was really looking forward to my waffle! But the closest one was just a regular fast-food outlet.

(That’s Corrine’s mom on the right)

A little note about the Georgia Peach Awards, the books are nominated by the students in the age group they are written for. Mrs. Ruffin was an elementary school librarian who wanted to encourage to students to read. She started the event with just elementary schools then when the fifth graders went onto middle school they asked “where’s reading bowl?” so it expanded into middle school. Then those students went onto high school and asked again “where’s reading bowl?” so the competition expanded upwards as the original students got older.

I love looking at everyone’s t-shirts.

Another team had an Oscar Wilde quote, but I couldn’t get a good photo. “It’s what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it”.

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