Spend a few minutes speaking with Inman Middle School sixth-grader Vicky Walters, and you get the feeling she didn’t exactly have to enter a contest to read more. But that didn’t stop her from blazing through 19 books spanning 5,388 pages to finish among the top 10 in Georgia Tech’s fourth-annual Jacket2Jacket area reading contest. In fact, Walters, who placed eighth, was the only middle-school student to reach the top 10. (Inman Middle as a school logged 224,856.)
For her efforts, Walters will join the other winners at the Georgia Tech-Georgia women’s basketball game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where they will be honored at halftime. Coincidentally, Walters’ three older sisters are current or former college basketball players.
Even though she loves hoops, Walters is most active in the media center, checking out books at a furious pace. As for her reading output for the contest, which spanned just under six weeks, she says confidently, “This was probably an average amount. I’ve read way more books than this at one point in time.”
Why? “Because I like books; they interest me,” says Walters, who as a second-grader read the entire Nancy Drew mystery series in three months. “They’re interesting to me. I like imagining the characters. My mom says I have a vivid imagination.”
When she finishes a series of books — she read all five of the “Twilight” books for the contest — Walters will often sit down and write an additional page of the story, just for kicks. If she watches anything on TV, it’s usually Japanese anime by directors such as Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”).
She’s found the perfect reading room in Inman Middle School, which emphasizes reading throughout the school, according to media specialist Laura Kamenitsa. “Our language-arts teachers in particular and our teachers in general emphasize reading, and read across the curriculum.” Kamenitsa says. “The students all keep up with reading logs, and get a grade for that. They’ll read different genres, including non-fiction, to support other subjects including math and science. It is a school-wide emphasis, and everyone is supposed to have a book to read, with no downtime per se. Our teachers all have bookcases in their classrooms that students can use.”
It’s gotten so inclusive that Walters says she’s found a rival reader in another classmate. They challenge each other to see who can read the most. She also has found a particularly inspiring teacher in Wendy Baker, one of Inman’s several Master Teachers. (We also interviewed Baker when one of her students won a poetry contest; check out that story and video here.) “She makes things fun, like, she would find these goofy songs online — goofy, but ‘educated’ goofy, like with a rap, and she would mix it in like theme and plot and character, and things like that,” Walters says of Baker. “Inman is the perfect school.”
Big thanks to Inman Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman for the tip on this great news.