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‘March Book Madness’ a Slam Dunk in Longmeadow Schools

LONGMEADOW, MA – While the University of Virginia was en route to the Final Four and an eventual NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship, middle-schoolers in town were taking part in their own version of “March Madness.”

Librarian/Media Specialist Scott McGinley organizes a program called “March Book Madness” at Williams and Glenbrook middle schools where students participate in a tournament of books based on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

McGinley explained that students have opportunities to nominate their favorite middle school books to get into the tournament. Students then fill out nomination papers, get a teacher and McGinley to sign off on it, and then collect petition signatures from their schoolmates. The six books with the most petition signatures join the top 10 most checked-out library books in the Sweet 16. Students will sometimes form small teams and work cooperatively to get petition signatures.

Glenbrook eighth-grade student Nate Morrin, the winner of the Bracket Challenge. He correctly predicted the final bracket before the tournament began and won a Barnes & Noble gift card as a prize. (Submitted photo)

Events are held at both schools to reveal the 16 books in the tournament and kick off the program, and then blank brackets with the matchups are given to the students who will then try to predict the winners of each matchup – just like many do with the NCAA Tournament. Students who create “perfect brackets” by the end of the tournament are entered into a drawing for a Barnes & Noble gift card.

Once all the brackets are submitted, students vote for their favorite books or the books they would be most interested in reading if they haven’t already. Voting takes place in four rounds – the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, and Championship – and the winning book covers are posted on big brackets on the walls in the schools.

McGinley said he started the program three years ago at Glenbrook and last year at Williams, and it has become a great way to get students excited about books and reading.

“I borrowed the March Book Madness idea from other libraries and schools who have been doing it much longer than we have been in Longmeadow’s middle schools,” McGinley said. “Reading is still so important for so many reasons. It engages the mind in ways that nothing else does. It asks the reader to think critically about what is going on in the book, and why. Someone once said that some books are mirrors that reflect what’s going on with the reader, while others are windows that open to the lives of others. Reading helps to create self-awareness and awareness of others’ experiences, so reading nurtures empathy for others’ and oneself. Reading can also help calm and focus the mind and body.”

This year, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a young adult novel about a police shooting, won at both schools. There were a total of five perfect brackets at Williams and two at Glenbrook, and winners were recently announced.

“The program generates a lot of buzz in our schools about the books in the tournament,” McGinley said. “Some students get really into it, and even students who aren’t big readers get into it because of the competitive nature of the bracket challenge.”

McGinley added that the school district is taking other initiatives to promote books and reading, such as the “One School, One Book” summer reading program at Williams.

“Students were encouraged to read ‘Fish In A Tree’ by Lynda Mullally Hunt, and then teachers all around the school used it to launch discussions about the book and how it relates to social and emotional learning,” McGinley said. “It was highly successful, and we are planning to continue it this summer with a different book.

– By Jeff Hanouille/Longmeadow News