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Students critique, explain favorite books at West Madison Reading Fair

Aremon, Jonathan, Ankit and DeAndre proudly show their ribbons and certificates for book entries in the West Madison Reading Fair. (CONTRIBUTED)
Aremon, Jonathan, Ankit and DeAndre proudly show their ribbons and certificates for book entries in the West Madison Reading Fair. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Lisa Walden used a science fair’s premises to stage West Madison Elementary School’s first Reading Fair.

Any student could enter and compete as an individual, a group or family in fiction or non-fiction by grade. “Students could choose any book they were currently reading or had read. Most chose their favorite book,” Walden said.

Compared to standard book reports, this setup allowed students to work collaboratively and more freely and creatively. Walden’s sixth-grade language art students liked pursuing “their project on a book they loved and wanted to share,” she said.

Students prepared display boards with book highlights, including plot summary and mood for fiction or author’s purpose and follow-up questions for non-fiction. Judges evaluated their work on creativity, thoroughness and interest.

“A project on ‘Divergent’ was quite eye-catching,” Walden said. “‘Alice in Wonderland’ not only had student drawings but included actual tree leaves and flowers for added dimension.”

The projects’ foremost importance was showing “students’ thoughts, ideas and work,” she said.

A first-grader struggled at first to glue yarn for cursive lettering but persevered and liked her results. A kindergartner used barn-shaped notepads to denote setting, characters and plot. The notes flipped up to reveal his opinions on the book. He drew connecting lines from character cutouts to the main character (barn).

All West Madison classes reviewed the reading fair in the library. “I want to do this next year,” one student said. “I’m going to tell my mama we’re doing this next time,” another said.

Walden said the reading fair could not have succeeded without support of West Madison Principal Dr. Daphne Jah.

“The kids were super excited about their projects. They did a wonderful job, and everybody was happy,” Walden said. “They’re talking about what they can do next year on their project and make it even better.”

Judges were Allyson Carpenter, Angie Bush, Dr. Missy Coman and 10 James Clemens seniors.

Walden hopes the reading fair will expand to other elementary schools, into a citywide competition and eventually open to secondary schools.

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