First graders in Mrs. Terri Lawrence and Ms. Lynn Tran’s classes are bubbling over with excitement as they learn the next book selection for the March Book Madness Tournament.
This day’s choice, “Bravo Anjali!,” written by Sheetal Sheth, follows a talented young female musician who encounters jealousy among her peers. Her journey sends an important message about making way for one another’s light to brighten the world for all.
“I like books and I like to read,” said 7-year-old Troy Maxwell. “That’s why I like March Book Madness.”
“Bravo Anjali!” has already won over classmate Shivya Nayak: “It’s so full of feelings,” she said.
The next day, students will hear the story, “The Three Little Tamales,” written by Erik Kimmel, and then the entire first grade votes on which book advances to the next round of the March Book Madness bracket.
The winning book will be read again and match-up against another winning selection, just like the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Tournament, until there is one first-grade book champion.
“I’m a North Carolina Tar Heels fan,” said Mrs. Lawrence, who came across the idea of replacing basketball teams with children’s books on social media and introduced it to her first-grade colleagues. “We started by reading two books on the same day. Now we read one book because the students are making deeper connections, not just surface ones.”
“This is a fun way to hit all the first-grade reading standards and develop a love of reading amongst our students,” added Ms. Tran. “There is such a diversity in the books and they can like them for different reasons. This has really helped open up their personal library.”
Starting with a “Sweet 16” of books to the “Elite 8,” “Final 4,” and culminating in the “National Championship,” students learn story elements and lessons such as how to compare and contrast, and make connections to themselves, each other and their community. In addition, they learn about the democratic process and voting.
“It teaches many important lessons in your life and also how to make different connections,” said first grader Mujtaba Arain, 7, whose favorite book was “Mae Among the Stars,” written by Roda Ahmed. “She followed her dream and became an astronaut.”
Her classmate, Tanvi Chinnan, 7, favored “Bravo Anjali!” overall because: “It told me that if someone is being mean, don’t get it in your heart.”
Naomi Krishna, 6, said that the March Book Madness format has helped her enjoy reading even more. Her book of choice so far has been “Diary of a Worm,” written by Doreen Cronin. “I enjoy the stories,” she said.
Next year, the first-grade teachers are planning for more March Book Madness with a different set of 16 books for the children to explore.
“It’s working,” Mrs. Lawrence said. “The kids are so excited each day.”
Ms. Tran added: “Next year, we want to inject even more student cultures in the book selections.” Our teachers are working to assure that we are meeting MUSD Strategic Goal #1 -- build a culture of we by infusing students’ reading experience with characters and stories that represent themselves.