Reading can be fun

2009-10-28 00:00

“WHAT did Mrs Twit put in Mr Twit’s spaghetti?” If you don’t know that it was worms, you need to join the ­children at the Phendulani Quiz.

This is an offshoot of the popular international Kids’ Lit Quiz which is held every year at Athlone School in the city, with the winners going to a national final, and then an international final. The aim is to celebrate the children who read, give them a chance to shine, as their peers may do on the sports’ field, win prizes and have a great time.

But the Athlone school librarian, Brenda Wepener, who is very ­involved in the running of Kids’ Lit, is aware of one big problem with it. Children from schools with well-stocked libraries and dedicated ­librarians, or from homes where reading is the norm, are going to clean up. The independent schools, and the former Model C schools are the main participants, and do well. It is impossible for many others to compete on even terms.

So last week, for the second year in succession, Wepener hosted Phendulani, with 13 teams of Grade 6 and 7 pupils from Longmarket Girls, Northern Park, Woodlands, Alston and Donnybrook primary schools.

Unlike Kids’ Lit, which tests ­children on how widely they have read, Phendulani concentrates on specific titles which Wepener, by scrimping, saving and begging, and thanks to the generosity of donors, gets to all the schools earlier in the year. And by the same methods, she ensures that there are prizes of books and book vouchers for the winners, and sweets for everyone. Sponsorship came from Exclusive Books, Cowan House, Epworth and Athlone schools and some parents of children at ­Athlone who asked not to be named.

Everyone had enormous fun, and it was wonderful to see a small rural school, such as Donnybrook, pushing the bigger schools all the way. The moment a question was asked, heads bent over answer papers as team members whispered among themselves and pooled their knowledge. Sometimes an over-eager hand shot up, so certain of the ­answer was its owner, until giggles from the rest of the team brought the culprit back to reality.

It was obvious that a lot of work had been done by pupils and ­teachers. For the record, the overall winners were the Longmarket Girls Number two team, with Woodlands One as runners-up. There were also prizes for the winners of various ­sections, and everyone seemed to want to come back next year.

For more information on the project, or to offer sponsorship, ­contact Brenda Wepener at Athlone Primary School at 033 342 9530.

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