By Shelly Moody, Instructional Coach WES
Each year the students and staff at Williams Elementary School celebrate their love of reading with a highly-anticipated March Madness tournament. During the month of March, every classroom teacher reads aloud 16 outstanding nonfiction picture books on a variety of people and topics. The goal of this event is to foster students’ curiosity, build background knowledge and create a community of readers.
On Wednesday, April 3, we had our annual assembly to announce this year’s champion! The energy in the gymnasium at Williams Elementary is comparable to Game 1 at Fenway Park for the American League Championship. Amanda Levesque and her parents use fog machines, light effects and specially selected music to enhance our students’ anticipation. Like a ringmaster at the circus, Jason Pellerin serves as our master of ceremonies, drumming up energy for each book as it’s announced.
There were many close voting battles during this year’s reading bracket. The books selected by student votes to make it to the final round were Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes and Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented by Tanya Lee Stone. After counting more than 200 ballots, we were ready for the main event … the unveiling of our 2019 March Madness Champion.
We were fortunate to receive personal messages from both the author and illustrator of this incredible book. Rescue, Jessica, and Patrick videoed a personal message of thanks to the students at WES for selecting their book as the March Madness champion. Illustrator Scott Magoon sent the following special message, “I grew up and went to middle and high school in nearby Skowhegan, Maine and so I am especially honored to have RESCUE & JESSICA honored in Oakland, just down the road! It means a great deal to me to know that so many of you loved RESCUE AND JESSICA because the book means a lot to me—and not just because I drew the pictures. Each time I read it, I’m reminded of an important thing to remember: that each of us, no matter who we are—is just a little bit better and stronger when we can work together as a team, just like Rescue and Jessica do every day.”
The real winners of this annual event are the students as they discuss important topics and develop a greater appreciation for our world.