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Radio Park Elementary students are gearing up for March Madness—but not the basketball kind. March Book Madness, created by second grade teacher Mary Robert, is a literature-rich, community-building activity. This is the second year for the event, which will benefit from a Student Opportunity Grant provided by the Education Foundation. To date, the Foundation has awarded 29 grants totaling $33,623.

“The children loved participating, and it really brought us together as a community of readers in our school,” said Robert. “We were connected across grade levels, classrooms, and subject areas — and we celebrated the joy of reading books together. Plus, we had a common theme that we could discuss with each book — diversity!”

This year’s theme is “Brave and Bold.”

“We start with 16 books in the bracket and end with our final winner as the children vote for their favorites,” Robert explained. “This year's theme lends itself to discussing character traits, diversity and inclusivity, and the message of being brave and bold.”

Students not only get to practice reading and discuss literature, but also put their writing skills to use to convince others to vote for their favorite book. But that’s not all—the activity even incorporates math.

“We collect the data for the vote totals, we graph the results, and use the data for math talks,” Robert said. “The most important benefit of March Book Madness is that it connects us as a school building and as a community of readers.”

“How cool is it to see Mr. Moriarta read one of the books during PE class, and Mrs. Mazer during music class, and Mrs. Harter during art class, and Mrs. Albright during STEM and of course, Ms. Herring during library?” Robert added.

She also noted that the hardest part of March Book Madness last year was sharing the books among all teachers. The Student Opportunity grant will help to provide multiple copies of each book title.

Some of this year’s books include “It’s Not Hansel and Gretel” by Josh Funk & Edwardian Taylor, “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna, and “Penguin Flies Home” by Lita Judge.

“Each week when we announced the winners moving on to the next round, you could hear the cheers coming from each classroom,” said Robert, reminiscing on last year’s activity. “It's so cool to cheer for books and reading! The overall motto of March Book Madness — which we repeat and repeat — is BOOKS ALWAYS WIN! It's a fun, impactful, and community-strengthening activity!”