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Reading for Australia


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Kids' Lit Quiz

None of us really expected that reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” would get us all the way to South Africa. But it did. This is the story of how that happened.

First, it was the matter of making it into a team.

At Takapuna Normal Intermediate we have a system where, after an entrance test, the twelve 10 - 13 year old students with the best scores are selected to participate. Once a week, we would meet in the library (where else?) with our two awesome coaches and practise quizzes on subjects ranging from super-heroes (Black Widow, The Incredible Hulk, Loki) to classic authors (Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc.) and everything in between.

On the day of the competition, we found out our teams. I was so pleased to be put into Team A with my friends. The Auckland round was made up of around 48 different teams in total. To be honest, the questions in the Auckland finals were not that hard, especially in the classics section.

When it was announced that we had come first we were all just ecstatic. This meant that we were going to the regional heat in Wellington! We were the class celebrities when we got back to school the next day.

Suddenly, it was the day of the New Zealand finals. In Wellington! The national finals were set out in a different format to the Auckland finals. Instead of having to write down the answers to questions on a sheet of paper, each team had a buzzer to press down as fast as they could if they knew the answer. The questions were harder. In fact, for the whole first half of the final we were coming fourth, that is, until the last round when Briar, answered nearly all the questions on Nursery Rhymes.

We’d won!  We were going to Durban to the world final!

2013 New Zealand Team Member on the New Zealand competition

Our quiz master, Wayne Mills, stood up on the podium and started calling the teams in. We were last. As we walked up, everyone cheered. We took our seats, and a few Lit Quiz Committee members gave speeches.

Then, the quiz began.  I realized that we were on for a roller coaster ride. Some rounds, like Authors, Enemies, and Settings, were bittersweet - they had lots of sweet moments, with enough salty twists to keep us jumpy in our seats!

My favorite category was the next one — Dystopian Fiction! We performed above average in this round. In the next category, Enemies, we plunged. Our confidence lowered. We groaned along with the other teams as we did the Music category, where we had to match the song with the movie it was in.   Our performance started to climb as we entered the Mythology section. It was a favorite for all of us. In the next category, Titles, we sprang up and took the first place! We always seem to do well when we think we won’t, and I learned my lesson not to doubt myself. Openings, the next category, was okay — I was going to answer the first question, but the Canadian team beat us by a fraction of a second! The next and last category was One & Only and Settings — not an amazing result for us, but it was a thrilling end to a great experience!

We were last — 5th place and tied with the Australian team from Canberra Grammar School. In 4th place was Cockermouth, from UK. In 3rd place was the University Of Toronto School from Canada. In 2nd place was Takapuna from New Zealand. I clapped hard, since I had a lot of friends on that team. #1 was, as you probably might have guessed, the South African team from Roedean! All of us cheered and clapped. It was a great competition.

2013 US Team Member on the world final in Durban, South Africa in July 2013

The Kids’ Lit Quiz was created to celebrate, encourage and challenge all avid young readers in the 10 to 13 age range. This is a critical period for youngsters. It’s the time when most kids CAN read but don’t necessarily choose to do so. During these years, parents and schools have a great opportunity to help youngsters acquire a lasting reading habit and become more rounded, better informed individuals with an enhanced ability to explore, understand and empathise with the complexities of the world around them.

‘The Sport of Reading’ provides a focus which kids really enjoy. When embraced by the staff in a school it becomes a very powerful motivator, significantly raising the profile of reading and helping schools to develop communities of readers who, through their love of it, become increasingly confident, developing critical abilities which will serve them throughout their lives.

As a former teacher of English and school principal, I am enormously impressed by the power of the Kids’ Lit Quiz to inspire students to value reading and gain enormous pleasure from it. I’ve seen at first hand the infectious way in which the passion of a small number of children quickly transmits to their peers and influences them to read with greater enthusiasm.

It also inspires adults. Teachers and school librarians who have been introduced to the quiz tend to become wholehearted supporters, making their annual regional heat a focal event in the school calendar having to select their teams from increasing numbers of committed young readers year on year. Authors too, once introduced to the quiz, see its enormous potential as a way of generating and nurturing a love of literature and an appreciation of the power of language to imagine, enquire, educate and entertain. In the UK the quiz is supported by many of the country’s leading children’s authors who are constantly astounded by the breadth and depth of the knowledge displayed by the kids taking part.

Although many kids leave their regional heat with book prizes, book tokens and small cash prizes, every one of them leaves with something less tangible but much more valuable. They have become part of a growing international community at the heart of which is a passion, a skill set and an asset for life.

Trevor Darwin
Kids' Lit Quiz Coordinator, north-east England region,
Adjudicator, Kids' Lit Quiz UK national finals

I am the parent of one of the members of the first US Championship Kids' Lit Quiz team, and brought my family last year to Auckland for the World Final.

The experience was extraordinary for my son and the members of his team as well as my family and the other US families. The opportunity to share the love of reading with kids from around the world was amazing. He got the opportunity to spend a week living and exploring with the kids from teams around the world. A year later, they are still in contact.

The international exposure provided an educational experience for our children that they would never be able to get in a normal school environment, and it is the pursuit of books and reading that got them to the point where they could have such an experience.

The World Final was far more than just a competition - it was an opportunity to explore a new country and to learn from other similar students from around the world. For my children, it also sparked a love of travel and exploration. We are still talking about our trip and continuing to promote the Kids' Lit Quiz locally, and look forward to its continued growth around the world.

Dan Donshik
Parent, US 2012 Kids' Lit Quiz Team

As a fellow coach (albeit in New Zealand!) of a few years standing, I absolutely support all of Nicole's comments about the benefits of Kids' Lit Quiz.

Success at the competition boosts enthusiasm hugely in the school, leading to more and more children avidly reading, wanting to be part of this competition. The good thing is that even if they don't make it into the school's team, they remain motivated and supportive of those who do. It is great fun for all who are involved, whether you do well or not. The children come back enthused about the books they've heard about and spread their enthusiasm to other kids.

If you haven't tried entering this competition, I strongly recommend it! You won't regret it.

P.S. I've been fortunate enough to have two of my teams win overseas trips - where else can you read books and get fantastic prizes like that for it? It's an unbelievable opportunity for primary aged kids to be able to win something like this - they come back hugely enriched, not only from the people and cultures they've been exposed to, but also just loving meeting so many other like-minded children and discussing books, books, books and more books....

Jenny Armitage
Belmont Intermediate School, 
New Zealand

I agree totally with Jenny’s comments above.

I too have been involved as a coach of a New Zealand team for a number of years and have seen how this competition boosts enthusiasm for reading within our school. Each year I see more and more students endeavouring to make it into our Lit Quiz team.

This year our school made it to the World Final in Durban, South Africa. What a fantastic experience! It was not only the team who were excited but the whole school was just buzzing. Students suddenly realised the opportunities reading could create. It was an amazing opportunity for our students to experience a different culture, meet other people and like Jenny stated above, meet other like-minded students and discuss books.

The Kids’ Lit Quiz is a wonderful competition and I too would urge any school that hasn’t entered it yet, to give it a go.

Karen Lines,
Takapuna Normal Intermediate School
New Zealand