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Homeschoolers are dominant in annual reading competition

March 24, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The team of homeschooled students who won the annual Battle of the Books contest last year came in second this year, bested by another team of homeschooled students they practiced with.

Since November, the teams of eight students each from grades 4 to 6 have been reading 20 books supplied by the Washington County Free Library. Twenty teams competed in a written competition in early March, with eight teams advancing to Saturday's oral competition.

Last year, the Patriots won the contest, in which teams are asked questions about the 20 books. Members of that team returned this year as Patriots Return.

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But they were upstaged by the Eagles at the 16th annual competition at Eastern Elementary School.

"They really are eagles. They soared," Washington County Free Library Director Mary Baykan said when handing out the trophies.

The Patriots were good, "but they were no match for the Eagles," Eagles member Dylan Thackston said.

The Eagles' other members are Phong Corcoran, Thao Corcoran, Samantha Giannelli, Kent Hansen, Nick Martin and Stephanie O'Brian.

The Patriots Returns team members are Arielle Black, Matt Giannelli, Jasper Gulliver, Elliot Martin and Grace O'Brian.

The two teams not only practiced together, with team managers peppering them with questions about the books, but some families had siblings on both teams, managers of the two teams said.

Team members do not read all 20 books as managers let students decide which of the books they want to read.

Members of the different teams reported meeting one to three times a week for about an hour each time.

The event's intent is to get children excited about reading, and it succeeds, Washington County Board of Education member Bernadette Wagner said.

Not only did the teams appear excited and intense at Saturday's event, so did many of the more than 100 relatives and friends who watched he two-hour competition.

Wagner was the manager for a team on which her twin daughters, fourth-graders Beth and Laura Wagner, competed. The team came in fifth place.

Their team name was Good Question because members thought it would be funny that when someone asked, "What is your team name?" they could answer, "Good question," Wagner said.

Wagner said she thinks the homeschool teams traditionally do better than those from public schools because they can devote more time during the "school day" to focusing on the assigned books. Students at public schools have to practice after school.

"We have more time to study," agreed Dylan Thackston.

Yasmin Iqbal, whose son, Aadil, was on another team, said she likes the contest because it gets children reading instead of engaging in less educational activities.

"I like to get the kids to read," she said.

The program is sponsored by area businesses and service clubs.

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