Reading thrives at Roosevelt Elementary

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

So wrote Dr. Seuss, whose birthday and National Read Across America Day are celebrated March 2.

If the famous children’s author is right, students at Roosevelt Elementary School are on track to know a lot and go very far. In one week, they celebrated two big literacy events at their school.

On Feb. 25, Roosevelt held its second annual Family Reading and Writing Night, offering a variety of reading and writing activities and a free book for every child in attendance.

About 150 people from 50 families came to share dinner, listen to Seuss stories read by teachers, create acrostic poems, decorate bookmarks and write stories whose main characters, settings and plot problems were determined by the roll of dice.

On Feb. 27, the school held its final round of the Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) competition. The voluntary statewide program, which encourages reading K-12, attracted more than 40 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students – enough to fill 10 teams at Roosevelt this year.

In September, those teams began reading this year’s OBOB reading list: 16 chapter books ranging from Jennifer Torres’s novel “Stef Soto, Taco Queen,” to Malala Yousafzai’s memoir “Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights.”

In January, they began competing in elimination matches in which they were asked questions about any book on the list.

In Roosevelt’s final round, four members of the Periodic Penguins team faced the four-member Kiwi Kids in front of an audience of family fans and the school’s second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes.

The teams took turns answering eight “In which book?” questions and eight content questions. Answers had to given within 15 seconds and with absolute precision. There was a tense moment, for example, when a judge heard “Swallows” instead of “Swallowed” in the answer “Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.”

The pressure was “scary at first,” said winning Kiwi member Hallie Kautzman, a fifth-grader participating for the first time this year.

Teammates Seattle Trejo and Zoe Bitzer agreed, despite it being their second year of competition.

Nerves were a factor even for three-year veteran Kenzi Freid. “I knew that I knew the answer,” she said, referring to a question both teams missed from the historical fiction book “Out of Left Field.”

Despite missing a few questions, the Kiwis correctly answered six of their eight questions and four of those the Penguins missed.

“We practiced a lot,” Fried said, describing library meetings to answer practice questions every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

While some teams divvyed up this year’s 16 titles, Freid read every one herself. She plans to re-read them in preparation for her team’s competition at OBOB’s regional tournament, to be held in Medford March 7.