This past Saturday, our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team competed in one of the toughest competitions of the year. As winners of the Southern Region, we faced the top two teams from the Eastern and Central Regions of the state, in addition to the team that finished 2nd at our own Southern Regional bowl. These six teams are the best of the best in our part of the state, and the competition was extremely tough this year. After five rounds of competition, we concluded the competition with 350 points. We knew we had performed very well, but you never know if you have done enough to defeat the other teams until the winners are announced in the closing ceremonies.
For the first time, the high school results were shared first in the closing ceremonies. We learned that not only did our team claim the Division II championship, but our team defeated the teams tied for second by a margin of almost 100 points. We also learned that we were the highest scoring team of the day, outscoring all of the elementary and middle school teams as well.
We will now face Marietta High School in the state championship to be held at the University of Georgia on March 8, 2014. Marietta earned their spot in the championship during the Division I bowl held on the same day as the Division II bowl. Their Divisional consisted of the top two teams from the North, West, and Metro-Atlanta Regions of the state. We were surprised to learn that they finished with a final score of 350, too, and also earned the highest score of the Division I bowl. We are excited to compete against a team so comparable to our own. It should be a very close match!
Today was the work day that never ended! It is our annual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Team Lock-In. It is 11:09 PM, and we are currently practicing questions. Don’t worry – we manage to have a little fun, too. This year, we are going to see if we can all stay up all night. Last year, I was the only one who didn’t crash, but most of the team made it until 5:00 AM. It is never fun to be the first to fall asleep with this crew!
Like many others in January, I found myself both reflecting on what we have accomplished so far this school year and looking ahead to what still needs to be accomplished before June. Call it a New Year’s resolution, but one thing I have wanted to do is write regular book reviews of what I have been reading. I spend a great deal of time talking with both students and staff members about different titles, and I think this would be a great way to share some of the great young adult literature we have in the media center. I hope to have a few great adult selections to share from time to time as well. Since I am just beginning this feature on our blog, I expect to see it change and evolve as we receive feedback from our patrons. I think Mrs. Lukkarinen is excited about this, too, and actually beat me by publishing her first review earlier today!
For my first review, I am going to go with one of my favorite reads so far this year. I knew there was a great deal of buzz surrounding the release of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I added it to my impossibly long list of “to reads” and didn’t think much about it again until my daughter read it. Most of the students who talk to me about books can tell you that I value my teenage daughter’s opinion of books more than just about anyone’s. An avid reader all of her life, she has a keen eye for quality young adult literature. And as much as I hate to admit it, these days she reads at least two books for each one I finish. So when she decided to take Eleanor & Park with her on our family vacation in November, I knew I would find out just how good this book was.
It would be putting it mildly to say she loved Eleanor & Park. Once her verdict was in, it moved to the top of my list, and I read it over two days last week. My only regret is that I didn’t take more time to savor the book and the two title characters with whom I fell in love. I can’t say that it is a plot-driven, page-turner, but the characters are so real and the emotions so raw that I had a lump in my throat for much of the book. In just thirty short pages, I was 16 and experiencing first love again. Now I hope that statement doesn’t scare off readers who avoid romance novels like the plague. While I would agree it is a romantic read, it reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which delivered so much more than just a love story. Eleanor & Park is a story about growing up, being uncomfortable in one’s own skin, and having hope when all seems lost. It also touches on important social issues like bullying and living in poverty. But I must be honest – what I will remember most about Eleanor & Park is that first love is often the purest, truest love. What could be better during the week we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day?
A new feature we will be adding periodically to this blog is to add media specialist recommendations/reviews. Today’s review is about Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen.
I really loved this book. It seems weird to say that I loved a book that is primarily about bullying and is incredibly emotional, but I do. I think this book should be on required reading lists in every high school to be used as a cautionary tale. The characters were written perfectly. Their actions, reactions, and emotions were real. The consequences of bullying were real. The guilt and what-ifs were real. And even though it was an excellently written book that was very honest, it was also very difficult to read. It is hard to imagine ever being in the situation of being a victim or a witness to bullying in the degree that was portrayed in the book. I would like to think that high schools today are much safer than they apparently are. I would like to think that the characters in Leverage were truly fictional. But I am a realist and understand that bullying happens, and sometimes the consequences are frightening. That is the reason we have bully awareness campaigns. Through the realistic, sometimes painful, actions and dialogue in this novel, students will be able to understand and appreciate the negative consequences to bullying another student and hopefully think twice before making a comment or committing an action that would be perceived as harmful to another person.
We have had March 28, 2014 circled on our calendars for a while now. This is the date that we will host our Exemplary Library Media Program Open House. Media specialists, school administrators, and community members from around the state are invited to attend this event. We want to share information on our program and learn about other successful programs throughout Georgia.
If you will be in Hinesville on Friday, March 28th, please plan to stop by between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to see what Bradwell Institute’s media program has to offer students, staff and the community. For more details, click on the informational flyer link below.
Open House Flyer
During Professional Learning Communities yesterday, Mrs. Lukkarinen and I decided to check some statistics to measure our growth so far this year. We had a phenomenal year last year, with a 27% increase in student visits, 51% increase in circulation, and about a 2% increase in media lessons over the previous year. With such great growth in visits and circulation, we set our target SMART goal much lower for this year, expecting to possibly see another 10% growth across the board.
I will admit that I was a little anxious to see how we were doing so far this year, as we just completed our slowest month of the school year. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when we charted the data. This year has been fantastic, and we can’t wait to see where we are in June!
On Saturday, BI’s eight-member Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team traveled to the Southern Regional Bowl at Valdosta State University. Each year, teams from the 61 school systems in this region compete for a chance to move on to one of two divisional bowls held in the state later this month.
This year, BI competed against seven other high schools during six rounds of competition, including our rivals from Liberty County High School. We had a strong showing early, putting up scores of 90, 60, and 80 in our first few rounds. At the end of the competition rounds, we posted a composite score of 400, our highest score in two years of competitions. We also defeated LCHS in our face-to-face round by a score of 50-40.
Even with a great score, we were not sure if it would be enough to put us ahead of Islands High School from Chatham County, who always brings a strong team to the competition. In the climatic awards presentation, we all held hands and waited as first the participation and then the placement awards were announced. Liberty was announced in 3rd, leaving BI and Islands to advance to the Division 2 Bowl on February 22nd. But we did not come to simply advance. We wanted to come home with another 1st place trophy and repeat as Southern Regional champs.
And that we did! It was a proud day for us all, and we celebrated with the team before heading home after a long day. We now have three weeks to prepare for another repeat performance at Divisionals in Statesboro. Congratulations to our students who have worked hard all year. We are proud of you!