'Fantatstic Readers' team of fourth-graders advance to regional competiton to be held March 10

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - From left to right, Ava Freeman, D'Aye Davidson, Devon Mason, Madelyn Hancock and Charity Olson listen intently to a question being asked by one of their team coaches, Matt Freeman, during practice Monday, Feb. 26. The girls, who make the team called Fantastic Readers, will take part in a regional Oregon Battle of the Books competition Saturday, March 10. Students in the St. Helens School District are taking part in Oregon Battle of the Books for the first time, and parent volunteers will be hosting the regional competition next weekend at McBride Elementary School.

At the start of the competition season, 22 students from McBride Elementary signed up to take part in the school battle. A competition was held in early February to narrow the field to just one team to represent the school at the regional level.

The Fantastic Readers, a team of five fourth-grade students, faced off against classmates during the school battles and earned sufficient points to take the lead. One sixth-grade team will also attend regionals after automatically qualifying for the event.

The Fantastic Readers will now take part in the regional competition, battling 20 other schools.

Team members Madelyn Hancock, Charity Olson, Ava Freeman, and D'Aye Davidson said they are nervous about the event, and nervous about competing with other highly qualified teams.

Devon Mason, the fifth team member, said she wasn't nervous at all. She's just excited the team made it to regionals. Mason said joining the OBOB competition was something her friends talked her into. She wasn't a huge fan of reading prior to the competition, Mason admits, but now she loves digging into new books and "getting to experience what the authors wrote."

Many students on the team said their favorite part of OBOB is spending time with friends and teammates while reading good books.

Kati Crouch, a parent volunteer with OBOB, said the competition is an activity many students can participate in, and noted it encourages students to read books outside their typical interests. Crouch said her own daughter, who has dyslexia, participated using audio books and reading out loud with her.

Kristal Freeman, another parent volunteer, added that OBOB is a great afterschool student activity that is free to join, fun and challenging.

"These kids take this very seriously," Freeman said. "Not every kid wants to play soccer or football. This is something they can all do. This is a club that they can be part of."

Fantastic Readers has been hosting weekly team practices to test members on their knowledge and comprehension of the 16 books competitors are required to know. While various teams will devise strategies for how to tackle the reading list, the Fantastic Readers split the assignments evenly and tried to ensure at least two students read the same book to increase their odds of answering questions correctly.

During the competitions, teams are asked to identify a book based on a content-related question, or are asked to identify the author of a particular book. On Monday afternoon, the team met in the McBride cafeteria to go through questions with Matt Freeman, a team coach, to figure out which books they knew well, and which ones might need another review prior to next week's event.

The regional Oregon Battle of the Books competition will be held at St. Helens High School on Saturday, March 10. Volunteers interested in helping with judging, score-keeping or other tasks can contact Crouch by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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