Bucks County Reading Olympics Pivots to a Virtual Format as it Celebrates 27 Years

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) was delight­ed to bring back the Bucks County Reading Olympics for its 27th year. Held annu­al­ly in April, it had to be can­celled last year due to the sud­den imple­men­ta­tion of COVID restric­tions, how­ev­er this year every­one involved was deter­mined to hold this wild­ly pop­u­lar event.  For 2021, the Bucks County Reading Olympics was care­ful­ly refor­mat­ted so that it could be held vir­tu­al­ly, and the Bucks IU was excit­ed to have 96 schools par­tic­i­pat­ing (1,900+ stu­dents) rep­re­sent­ing all 13 Bucks County Public School dis­tricts, one Career Technical Center, and 10 non-public schools.

Reading Olympics is designed to encour­age Bucks County stu­dents to read more by help­ing them dis­cov­er the joy and excite­ment of read­ing and talk­ing about books. Using a team for­mat, over sev­er­al months’ stu­dents get to share the chal­lenge of grow­ing the num­ber of books they read as well as increas­ing their expo­sure to a vari­ety of writ­ing gen­res and top­ics. Reading Olympics is struc­tured around the use of an age-appropriate (ele­men­tary, mid­dle, and high school based) list of 25 books.  Teachers, read­ing spe­cial­ists, and librar­i­ans work togeth­er to devel­op new book lists every year that offer a broad base of sub­jects and styles that will appeal to the widest audience. 

This year there were 115 ele­men­tary school teams (1,300 stu­dents), 46 mid­dle school teams (520 stu­dents), and 17 high school teams (150 stu­dents).  The teams, led by teach­ers and librar­i­ans, are encour­aged to read all 25 books on their list by work­ing through them togeth­er and shar­ing their read­ing expe­ri­ences, inter­pre­ta­tions, and com­pre­hen­sion.  The pro­gram allows a great deal of flex­i­bil­i­ty as to how each team leader specif­i­cal­ly runs the pro­gram with their stu­dents but is care­ful­ly struc­tured to achieve the same objec­tive — to get kids read­ing! Due to COVID restric­tions, this year each school/district deter­mined if their stu­dents met either vir­tu­al­ly, in-person, or as a hybrid com­bi­na­tion of both as they worked through their book lists and shared in prepa­ra­tion of the final cel­e­bra­tion event. 

A Celebration of Reading

The con­clu­sion of the Reading Olympics pro­gram is an event inclu­sive of all the par­tic­i­pat­ing teams. For three rounds, a mod­er­a­tor leads the stu­dent teams through a set of ques­tions about the books on their lists.  Their respons­es are scored, and all three rounds totaled.  Final awards are issued accord­ing­ly, with all par­tic­i­pants receiv­ing rib­bons, and done in the spir­it of hav­ing com­plet­ed their lists with a great under­stand­ing of what they read ver­sus a com­pe­ti­tion of teams against one anoth­er. This year’s vir­tu­al approach uti­lized Kahoot!, a game-based online learn­ing plat­form through which the final cel­e­bra­tion event was able to be orga­nized and accessed by all the teams. The Kahoot! pro­gram was for­mat­ted to allow for the competition’s nor­mal three rounds of ques­tions to be facil­i­tat­ed, mod­er­at­ed, and scored vir­tu­al­ly.  While the vir­tu­al expe­ri­ence was not the same as in-person, every­one par­tic­i­pat­ing felt it was still a great expe­ri­ence and high­ly successful. 

For more infor­ma­tion on the Bucks County Reading Olympics, please vis­it the Bucks IU web­site at: https://www.bucksiu.org/educators-administrators/reading-olympics or email Pam Dinan, Supervisor of Education, at ReadingOlympics@BucksIU.org.