Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Why the Kid's Lit Quiz will change the world ...

Quiz Master Wayne Mills
Adults on the sidelines cheered. Children screamed and hugged each other. Sweat dripped from furrowed brows as the competition got fierce.
Junior high hockey city final? Championship soccer game?
You’re way off. 
It was the Canadian final for the Kids Lit Quiz, held in John Ross Robertson School in Toronto on February 7th, 2012.
Now in its 20th year, the Kids Lit Quiz was created by New Zealander Wayne Mills, a life-long educator who was always disappointed that avid young readers weren’t somehow rewarded for their efforts. It disturbed him that in general, we only cheer athletes, not readers.

With the Kids Lit Quiz, he’s found a way to change all that.
I was lucky enough to attend the competition this year, Kids Lit Quiz's second year in Canada, as part of team “Awesome Author” with fellow authors and team-mates Anne Dublin, Lena Coakley and Gillian O’Reilly. Our team was invited by the Quiz in part to get the word out I think, and also likely to show kids that clearly adults don't know everything (we didn't). We were swept to our seats among the competitors, 44 teams of 4 people each, all with heads down, eagerly awaiting the first question, pencils and paper ready.
Team Awesome Authors (l to r):
Gillian O'Reilly, Lena Coakley,
me (and my gargoyle puppet),
 Anne Dublin
Of course, all the other competitors were between the ages of 9 and 13, so we stood out a little.
Here’s how the quiz works: over 4 gruelling hours (okay, 4 hilarious, riotous, engaging hours), Mills asks 100 questions about kid’s literature. 
Anything written in English from nursery rhymes to comic books to Harry Potter is fair game. There are 10 categories, with 10 questions per category. Categories can be things like food (what did Alice eat?), cars (what colour was the batmobile?), or dragons (who was Smaug?).
As the day progressed and teams around us battled for the top spot, I felt that I was being swept up in something really important. Maybe it was because of the team from one school who all came dressed as classical characters. Maybe it was the fact that there were just as many boys as girls in the room, testing their reading muscle. Maybe it was the hundreds of cheering fans, adults and students alike.
Or maybe it was the infectious way that every competitor in the room wanted to win, and wished they knew everything in every children's book ever written.
What better way to get kids to read?
The stakes are high: the Canadian winners, (way to go, University of Toronto School!), will travel to Auckland New Zealand in the spring, to compete in the world finals against Britain, Scotland, the U.S., South Africa, and other countries.
Think of it as the World Cup of Reading, a new sport sure to change the world. I for one am hooked, a fan for life.
Here are a few more related links: Kids Lit Quiz on Youtube in the Toronto Star  and on the Toronto District School Board website.

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