KONZ | Students participating in 'Book Madness' at Farmer Elemen - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KONZ | Students participating in 'Book Madness' at Farmer Elementary School

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Fifth graders in Laurel Oskins' classroom read books on Feb. 27. 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz) Fifth graders in Laurel Oskins' classroom read books on Feb. 27. 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The message hanging above the door leading to Laurel Oskins' classroom at Farmer Elementary School is very clear: "In this room, we read."

The fifth-grade teacher says she's always looking for fun projects for her students to do to get them excited about reading. 

So while she was off last week during all of the snow days, Oskins took to the internet and came across a blog item called "Book Madness - A Tournament of Books" by Catherine Reed, a first grade teacher in central Kentucky.

"We are big basketball fans here, so I knew we had to do it," said Oskins, who says the entire fifth-grade class -- about 120 students -- is eligible to participate. "I told them about it when they got back on Monday and the buzz has been crazy. It's all that they are talking about."

Oskins selected sixteen books that students have been reading since the beginning of the year. The books are grade-level appropriate and connect across all content areas, she said.

She then made a life-sized bracket on one of her classroom walls, showing pictures of the books, and has extra copies of the books in case students haven't read them yet. Some of the favorites going into the competition: "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio, "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White and "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.

"It's a cool little thing that she has going -- because it's a bunch a books and we get to vote on them," said Conner Jarvis, 10. "I already know which book is going to win."

The voting won't begin until March 26 -- which coincides with the Sweet Sixteen match-up in the NCAA basketball tournament. Oskins says she's incorporating technology by having students use an online survey to submit their votes.

"They cannot vote unless they have read both books that are going up against each other," Oskins said. "They have about three weeks until we actually start voting. They can read it, have it read to them or they can watch the movie."

Ellison Thornsbury, 10, said the Tournament of Books was an "unexpected surprise" after an unexpected week off from school.

"It makes the whole idea of reading books more exciting," said Ellison, who added she's read most of the sixteen books. 

Both Conner and Ellison say they'll read the other books they haven't yet read so they can participate in the entire competition.

Oskins said her students love to read, but she never expected to hear them discussing which books would beat out other books at their lockers.

"I never expected it to get this crazy and for them to get this excited about it," she said. "It's been fun to watch them get so excited."

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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