Virtual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Advances 5 APS Schools to Metro Bowl

Maia Cottman, a third-grade student at Barack and Michelle Obama Academy, participated in the virtual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.

Thirty Atlanta Public Schools elementary, middle and high students in grades 4-12 went head-to-head in a virtual battle of agility and reading comprehension at the 2021 District Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl on Jan. 20 and Jan. 27.

“This year’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl was unlike any other we have had because it was virtual,” said APS Media Services Coordinator Patrice Laird-Walker. “Our goal was to continue with this celebration of reading event in spite of the obvious challenge of hosting it virtually.”

This year’s teams included one high school, six middle, and 23 elementary schools, as students raced to be the first to click the buzzer and correctly answer quiz questions.

This year, Charles R. Drew Charter, Sutton Middle School, and E. Rivers Elementary School took first place in their respective categories. Second-place honors went to Howard Middle School and Kendezi Old Fourth Ward. The top two winning teams have advanced to the Metro Regional Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, which will also be held virtually on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Laird-Walker says volunteers helped make it all possible with only a few virtual glitches.

“Along with our Instructional Technology Department and volunteers from throughout the District and community, we were able to pull it off,” she said. “Imagine 200 elementary students navigating from Zoom room to Zoom room and answering questions with a virtual buzzing software system. We had a couple of ‘lost’ students, but with the help of many volunteers, we were able to link them to the correct location to continue the competition.”

Volunteers included APS employees, community members, and Atlanta Board of Education member Cynthia Briscoe-Brown, who commented: “I am familiar with the reading bowl because I was a coach 15 years ago for Sutton Middle School. This is such an exciting event!”

Students in elementary and middle school read 10 award-winning titles, including Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech and Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson. Middle school titles included Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams and Blended by Sharon Draper. High school students read 20 titles that included With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo and Internment by Samira Ahmed.

“The most important thing remains true: reading,” Laird-Walker said. “Our students still read 10 award-winning titles in elementary and middle school and 20 award-winning titles in high school. Despite the new obstacle of hosting a virtual bowl, the winners are all the students who continued to display their love for and dedication to reading. We will always champion and celebrate reading.”

This annual Super Bowl of reading was produced by the APS Media Services Department, which includes Laird-Walker, Media Specialist At-Large Jennifer Saunders, and Executive Director of Instructional Technology Aleigha Henderson-Rosser.

The booklist for the 2022 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl will be released in March. Students will begin preparing as soon as those book titles are released. 

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