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Books and Brackets: students bring the love of reading with every page turn

On Feb. 14, the love of reading was in the air in Union County Public Schools as the district's elementary schools kicked off the 2024 Books and Brackets reading challenge.

Books and Brackets, modeled after the March Madness basketball competition, is a five-week reading challenge for the district's 30 elementary schools. In 2023, third, fourth, and fifth graders collectively read about 5.7 million minutes, equivalent to approximately 95,000 hours.

Theme weeks add to the fun with themes that include the love of reading is a superpower, the love of snuggling up with a good book, the love of reading with good friends and hats off to our favorite authors. 

Poplin Elementary students were already embracing the competitive spirit and eagerly anticipating the start of the challenge. They were in the running for the title last year and hope to secure it this year.

"I love reading different types of books. My favorites are fantasy and mystery. I'm reading Amari and the Night Brothers, Wildfire and Not If I Can Help It. I read one and go to the next," said Emma Mcrobie, a fifth-grader.

Emma's classmate, Brayden Smith, loves to read, too. His trick to enjoying it more was simple: he went to the media coordinator and shared his favorite topics. She then helped him find the right books. Thanks to her guidance, Brayden started reading a lot more.

"When I read, I love imagining what's happening, so I feel like I'm there. After finishing, I close my eyes and create my own movie in my head," said Brayden. "The best part about Books and Brackets is going to the pep rally because it's so energetic. We were so close to winning last year. 

The students aren't the only ones who share in the excitement. The teachers do, too.

"Books and Brackets is a good way to motivate students to read, explore new genres, build their stamina, all while celebrating the love of books and reading through healthy competition," said Poplin's fourth-grade team of teachers.

Good luck to all of the schools. Stay tuned for the Sweet 16 announcement, Feb. 22 on Facebook @UCPSNC!