April 15th marked the end of the 2020-21 season for Reading Olympics, with Emmaus High School having entered its first-ever team in area competition and nabbing fourth place. Seven EHS students–seniors Aidan Brown, Heather Fabritze and Kyla Fanning, juniors Isabela Lees, Benjamin Lees and Meera Bakrania, and freshman Molly Himes– accepted the challenge of reading 25 books between them in November, in anticipation of the annual spring reading showdown.
Titles included standard-format YA reads like All American Boys, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s timely fiction novel about racial tension and social justice, and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, Steve Sheinkin’s nonfiction account of the U.S. government analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Also listed were several books in less traditional formats, like Melanie Crowder’s historical novel-in-verse Audacity, recounting female labor struggles in the early 20th Century, and actor George Takei’s graphic novel memoir of Japanese internment, They Called Us Enemy. Student participants had approximately six months to complete their share of the reading, which meant tackling at least one book per month.
For the team advisors, EHS Librarian Ms. Kelly Bower and EHS Emotional Support teacher Mrs. Mollee Griffith, the pandemic forced creative problem-solving at nearly every step. For example, borrowing of physical books required some home deliveries, and group meetings/progress conferences with students were held using Google Meet. The ultimate competition–the Spring Challenge–was also accomplished virtually.
Late afternoon on April 15th saw students from 11 area high schools battle over reading comprehension via one gigantic Zoom session. Six EHS students were physically present, socially-distanced and on chromebooks in the high school library, and one participated online from home. Ms. Bower and Mrs. Griffith chaperoned the library participants and served as the Hornets’ Team Leader and Moderator, respectively. Ms. Bower even temporarily abandoned the library’s “no food” rule during the competition to reward efforts during the particularly challenging COVID school year.