The tension was palpable Tuesday night in the Oak Harbor Elementary gymnasium.
David Ybarra’s eyes lit up as the scores for each team were announced, leaving the winner for last.
Ybarra and his teammates threw their arms into the air when Joy Feldman announced that the Crescent Harbor Elementary Bookmark Bandits had claimed first place.
“Who needs March Madness when we have the third-grade reading challenge?” asked Feldman, a librarian for Sno-Isle Libraries.
A team of third graders from each public elementary school on Whidbey Island competed Tuesday in the semifinals of the challenge, hosted by Sno-Isle Libraries. The students read six books throughout the year and had their knowledge about those stories put to the test during an in-school competition and Tuesday night’s all-island event.
The seven teams that participated in Tuesday’s book trivia represented the winning teams from each school competition.
Crescent Harbor’s Bookmark Bandits will move on to the final on March 28 at Edmonds Center for the Arts. There, seven teams from public schools throughout Snohomish and Island counties will compete for the top trophy and pizza party prize.
All students who make it into the final will also get the chance to meet the two local authors from the six reading challenge books they read.
“I’m so excited,” said Deacon Roundy, a member of Crescent Harbor’s winning team.
“At first I was really worried,” said his teammate, Rozalyn Walley. “And I was so happy when they called our team to win.”
All of the teams trained hard for the competition.
Savannah Clem said she re-read a lot of the books and took notes to make sure she remembered all the details. This effort proved necessary, for several of the trivia questions got pretty specific.
One question asked how many mice served on the Mouse Council in the “Tale of Despereaux,” which was only mentioned once in the challenge’s longest book.
The competition was started as a way to promote literacy among a critical age group, according to Feldman.
There are numerous studies that indicate third grade is a pivotal point in children’s education, and if they aren’t strong readers by then, they will often fall behind for the rest of their schooling, she said.
“We want them to become stronger, more confident readers, but we also want to nurture a love of books,” she said.
There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of competition.
The elated Crescent Harbor team high-fived one another and hugged their parents after the end of the challenge Tuesday night.
Though some of them were admittedly nervous about the final on Wednesday, they also said they aren’t too worried.
“We’ve won twice, and I feel like we’re going to win again,” Clem said. “I’m really confident.”