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Centennial Arts Academy celebrates reading bowl victory
Centennial Arts Academy youngsters hold their banners high as they prepare for a parade Wednesday morning in honor of the school’s reading bowl state championship. Student’s prepared banners to hold as the team carried their winning trophies past the entire student body.

Georgia Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl State Champions

  • Matthew Baker, fifth grade
  • Will Barrett, fifth grade
  • Caroline Bruner, fourth grade
  • Turner Edmondson, fifth grade
  • Kerrigan Gruhn, fourth grade
  • Wiley Hikerson, fifth grade
  • Samuel Holt, fifth grade
  • Ella Grace Lawler, fourth grade
  • Ali Patrick, fifth grade
  • Alyssa Woo, fourth grade
  • Coach Kathy Anglin
  • Assistant coach Dallas Thompson

Children waved signs, shouted chants and slapped the hands of their school’s victors.

Centennial Arts Academy held a parade Wednesday for its Reading Bowl Team, which recently won the Georgia State Championship of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.

“They worked really, really, really hard,” said Kathy Anglin, the team’s coach. “I mean, I don’t think until people see the competition they can see how hard these kids are working and how difficult it is to get this far. You’re talking about hundreds of teams that start the first competition, and each round narrows it down.”

The team’s first competition was district-level, where the top two elementary schools advanced to the region competition. The top teams in North Georgia competed at the regional level, and Centennial placed second.

Thus the team moved on to the divisional competition, which divides the state into two divisions. The top team from each division goes onto the state competition in Athens, where Centennial came out the victor for the second year running.

The team is composed of 10 fourth- and fifth-graders who passed a rigorous test to become a team member.

“You can only have 10 kids on the team, and we have about 40 try out each year,” Anglin said. “It used to be a little bit more, but the competition’s gotten really tough.”

The team reads 16 books chosen from the list of Georgia Book Awards nominees. Favorites this year included “Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25” by Richard Paul Evans and “Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen.

The competition judges students’ ability to understand, comprehend and apply lessons from the books.

“They read them not just once, but two, three, sometimes four times, depending on how much they need to know,” she said.

To join the team, students were tested on the books in October.

“I will test them to see how they’re doing and I take the top scores,” Anglin said. “Then we have buzzer training, because they have to sit on buzzers in competition, five to a buzzer.”

Based on the score test and the buzzer test, Anglin selected the top 10 as the team members.

The team practiced for the competition every school day together, creating possible example questions.

“We eat lunch together and practice questions and with the buzzers,” Anglin said. “They start practicing in October even though the first competition isn’t until January.”

Team members said their favorite parts of being on the team included practicing questions, participating in each competition, using the buzzer and simply reading.

“I liked waiting to see who won at the end of every competition,” said Wiley Hikerson, who was on both this year’s and last year’s state championship teams.

Some kids are already reading for next year, because the book awards lists are already out. Anglin created a book club this year for those students who are eager to begin reading in the meantime.

Anglin said she hopes her students take away more than exceptional reading comprehension skills. She hopes they learn lessons in confidence, teamwork and integrity.

“I think a lot of people think these are just kids who can read,” she said. “Yes, but there are so many components to this. You have to be a leader. You have to learn to speak up. You have to be on a buzzer under pressure. It’s about leadership skills and confidence. I’ve seen kids come into this shy and leave out of here with a lot of confidence.”