ANeSU students compete in literary ‘Jeopardy!’

BRISTOL — Alex Trebek was nowhere in sight, but scores of elementary students from the ANeSU sending towns got together April 2 for a contest based on “Jeopardy!” — the popular game show Trebek hosts.
“It was so wonderful, the students were so excited to connect with each other,” Mount Abraham librarian Laura Mina said. “There was a hum and buzz throughout the library.”
The students’ version of “Jeopardy!” was a little different — instead of general knowledge categories, the kids questions had a literary theme. All the clues for the games were taken from the 30 titles that were finalists for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. The DCF award has honored outstanding children’s literature since 1957.
Around 75 fourth- through sixth-graders from Bristol Elementary, Beeman Elementary, Robinson Elementary, Monkton Central School and Lincoln Community School traveled on a mini-field trip Wednesday morning to Mount Abraham Union High School to participate in the contest.
The program has been around for a half dozen years, but the organization said this was the first time it was held at Mount Abraham, and the first time all five elementary schools participated.  
“The students had a different feeling of excitement about it,” Mina said. “The stakes were higher, coming into a space they will all be coming to in the next couple of years.”
Parents of students and Mount Abraham middle schoolers pitched in to help run the program. The elementary students were divided into 12 teams, and participated in contests in four rooms.
Instead of pitting school against school, organizers integrated the teams. Beth Nelson, the librarian at Lincoln Community School, said students were able to meet their future classmates.
“The students got to know kids from other schools that they will go with to Mount Abe, and they loved that,” Nelson said. “It makes jumping to Mount Abe a little less scary, and it gives them another reason to be excited about reading.”
In order to participate in “Jeopardy!” students had to read at least five of the books on the Dorothy Canfield Fisher list. However, the more students read, the more answers they would know in the game.
Instead of material prizes, the “Jeopardy!” champions took home perhaps the greatest prize of all — the satisfaction of winning. By all accounts, a good time was had by all the students.
“They just had a blast,” Nelson said. “I took 18 kids from Lincoln and they had the best time.”
Mina had her own words of praise for the elementary students.
“Their behavior was amazing; they were so polite,” Mina said. “It made their minds bigger to be up in the big school.”
Mina said the program is another component of developing a culture of literacy at Mount Abraham.
“It’s a way to bridge students’ interest in literature, and show how they can use it to connect to the school they’ll be going to very shortly,” Mina said.
Mina said that popular titles among the students included “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate and “The Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. She added that any program that combines reading and fun is a success.
“Programs like that encourage literacy and discussions around literature; they’re really important for our students,” Mina said. “Building love for literature is really important at a young age as is having students read quality books.”
Mina also said there is an important social aspect to reading programs, since students have the opportunity to discuss what they read with both peers and their teachers.
“Anything we as adults can do to nurture that is important,” Mina said. “That’s the beauty of a program like this.”
Nelson offered a similar sentiment.
“People think reading is a solitary thing, but it really isn’t,” Nelson said. “It helps kids learn about what other people are thinking about, and it makes the book much bigger than it really is.”

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