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Boonsboro 'Brainiacs' prove worthy of moniker

March 21, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - After receiving his trophy and posing for photographs for being part of the eight-person team that won the Battle of the Books Saturday, Ian Karraker, like a pro athlete, sat down to take a cell phone call.

On the other end? His mom.

Ian, 10, a student at Boonsboro Elementary School, was part of The Book Brainiacs, who finished in first place. Book Masters, sixth-graders from Boonsboro Middle School, finished in second place, while Page Surfers, sixth-graders from Cascade and Old Forge elementary schools and Smithsburg Middle School, finished third.

Eight teams competed in the final round of the book competition.

Members of the teams sat in circles in Eastern Elementary School's gymnasium/auditorium. Joyce Parks, head of the children's department at Washington County Free Library, and Jeff Ridgeway, Parks' assistant, asked the teams 40 questions about 20 different books group members had to read.

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For some of the questions, every team knew the answer. For at least two questions, no team did.

After the question was read, team members had 30 seconds to discuss it and write their answer on a large pad of paper. Once time expired, team members revealed their answers.

It was obvious when teams knew the answer. They would huddle together and whisper and gesture hurriedly.

Clay Rohrer, whose daughter Kelsey, 11, was a member of Page Surfers, said Kelsey crammed for the event Friday night, Saturday morning and even on the way to Eastern Elementary.

Parents often play a part in students' participation the first time, but students then decide to do it on their own, Rohrer said.

Rohrer said Kelsey's reading skills have improved and she now reads herself to sleep.

Joe Fiola's daughter, Jaclyn, 10, was a member of the first-place team. Midway through the competition, Fiola said he likes the event because it improves children's reading comprehension. Other benefits include exposing children to competition and making them work as a member of a team.

"If you have one weak link in the team, they're not going to do well," he said.

All of Bernadette Wagner's five children have participated. Her oldest is now 20 while her twin daughters, Laura and Beth, were members of the Excel team from Paramount Elementary School.

She said the competition especially benefits children who are "on the bubble" of becoming, or not becoming, avid readers.

Excel team members gathered weekly to discuss books or authors they liked or disliked, said Wagner, manager of the Excel team and a Washington County Board of Education member.

"Kids who are good strong readers are going to be better prepared for any academics in school," she said.

Julia French, Ian Karraker's grandmother, said she thought the competition was fabulous. And difficult.

"I had read a number of those books and I wouldn't have had a clue," she said of the details students needed to know. "I had questions like that in college."

Ian Karraker, a first-time participant, said he likely will take part again next year. Teams sign up to participate in November. Before making it to the final round, 19 teams had to answer 40 questions in a written format, Parks said.

Ian said that just before the final round, he finished reading one of the 20 books that his teammates had requested he read.

"It's fun and I like the challenge," he said.

Books the students had to read included "The Million Dollar Kick," "Wild Timothy," "Nightmare Mountain," "Junebug and the Reverend" and "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh," Parks said.

She said the event offers a chance to recognize students who are more academically oriented, rather than those who play sports.

"They get acknowledged for something they enjoy doing," she said.

Saturday marked the 17th year the competition was held.

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