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Why I Coach Reading Bowl

By Robbie Barber


I never intended to coach a Reading Bowl team. The idea that we would read 20 books (less now in ES & MS) and answer trivia questions on them was abhorrent to me. Like some mad Accelerated Reader test gone on a rampage. I could not understand the allure. Even so, I have coached or assisted the Reading Bowl teams in three different middle and high schools over a dozen years. I finally know why.


Yesterday we competed in the Metro Regional Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl and lost – or at least didn’t place in the top 3. It was a virtual competition but nine of my ten students came to the school to compete together. (I made sure everyone was spread out and quiet during the competition!) It was the time between rounds that were magic. Students were arguing about books. The one book hated by all who read it were yelling out the problems in the book and pointing out the inconsistencies. One student read a book the night before and couldn’t believe how good it was. The room was loud. They drew pictures, laughed at images, reviewed materials with each other, and threw out grandiose plans for next year’s team. The one student who couldn’t come to school was on FaceTime most of the morning, joining the antics.


The principal, who had unlocked the building on a Saturday morning, came up to check on us. He was smiling when he left, shaking his head at the students who were still laughing, yelling, arguing, planning, reviewing, and reading. He turned to me and said he didn’t expect this much laughter or noise.


Apparently, I coach Reading Bowl for the fun of it.



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