Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Books, Twists of Fate, and Sushi

TV.  If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six.  Open your child's imagination.  Open a book.  ~Author Unknown

I was an avid reader as a child. My husband was as well. So it is no surprise that our daughter, Katarina, shared our love of books at a very early age. By the time she could sit up on her own, she was holding books and flipping pages. As soon as she could string sentences together she was memorizing her favorite stories and "reading" them to us almost word for word. 

When Katarina was two and a half, we moved to Germany. Therefore, she first learned to read in German. Imagine my surprise when she came to me near the end of first grade and proudly announced, "I can read in English, too". It's terrible to admit this--right here in print for the whole world to see--but I didn't believe her. I responded, "Really?" Then she opened up the new English book I had planned to read next as our bedtime story , and she started rattling off the text as if she wrote it herself.  I guess she simply applied the reading techniques she learned in school to help her do the same in English. 

She in now 12 and in the sixth grade. Her love of reading, in both English and German, results in many local library trips and I had to resort to the policy of "whatever you check out you must carry yourself" or else she'd bring 20 books home every week. Not only does she read them to herself, she also reads to others and she is very good at it. So, when her class was considering who to pick for the "Lesewettbewerb", we hoped she would be the one.

Lesewettbewerb translates as reading contest. I guess you could say it is like a spelling bee but a bit more involved. It takes place every year in Germany in sixth grade only. It is a big event. The children must read a book, prepare a short speech about what happens in the book, and practice a passage from the book (about 5 minutes). There is also a question and answer phase. In the second half of the competition, the readers are given an unknown book and told to open to a particular page and start reading. This is the harder portion of the contest.  The students are not just judged on how efficiently they read but also on the way they read. Do they have good intonation? Do they make the book exciting for others to hear? The judges are looking not only for children who entertain themselves with books but for children who entertain others while reading.

Katarina's class needed to choose a girl and a boy to represent their class at school. There was much debate as to whether Denise or Katarina should be the one. In the end, the teacher picked Denise. I had one very heart-broken girl to cheer up that day. I reminded her of the year she didn't get a lead role in the Christmas musical at church. I told her to approach the supervisor and let her know that if anyone became sick or unable to fulfill their role she would be willing to step in for them. Lo and behold, one child's family opted to take a winter vacation over Christmas time and she got a part.

Funny how fate steps in at times, isn't it? Three weeks before the school reading contest, Denise became ill. Even worse, the problem affected her vocal chords. One week before the event, her still weak voice gave Katarina the opportunity to step in for her. And to top things off, she won the school competition. She received an award certificate and (appropriately) a gift voucher to the local bookstore. For the next round she would need to read a new book by a different author.

Two weeks ago she represented her school in the county competition. We needed to drive her there and no one from the school accompanied us. Unfortunately, parents and others were not permitted to be present during the contest. For two hours we occupied ourselves in the town, looking at the old buildings, walking up to the church, having an espresso at a cafe'. All the while, I wondered if she had read well, if the others had read equally well, if we would bring home a happy girl or a disappointed girl. 

When we reached the building, they were just finishing. The children came out to join us as the judges discussed. Twenty minutes later the kids were told a decision had been reached, and we were ALL asked to step inside. Katarina whispered, "I think Monica will win. She read very well." As mothers do, I secretly wished they'd call my girl's name instead.

The announcement came. Apparently the judges had a difficult time chosing between two of the candidates but had finally decided to pick a winner, that winner being a girl.  This narrowed things down and filled me with hope (and a bit of nervous tension).  Katarina said when they called her name, she almost couldn't believe it. She shook the judges hands, said her thank-yous, and commended the other participants for their good performances. Each child received a book for participating, and Katarina received an extra book. The newspaper took photos, there was a brief moment of good-byes, and then we took one extremely proud and happy daughter home. On the way she began talking about finding a good book for the state competition. She also spoke about her reward. We had told her if she won we would take her out for a victory dinner. Of course, we couldn't go immediately. Not only was it already late on a school night but the restaurant she picked was an hour from home . She wanted to go to Aalen to the all-you-can-eat revolving sushi bar at Kyoto's. We went there this weekend and I've got to say, not only is she a wonderful reader, but she's damn good at using chopsticks.



LKHarris-Kolp said...

I'm so proud of her! It's a shame you couldn't watch the competition, but it's that way here, too, for certain things. Katie was in a UIL Spelling competition yesterday. We have to wait until tomorrow night at the awards ceremony to find out if she placed.


Linda H. said...

That's exciting, Laurie, I hope she did well enough to place. I'll keep my fingers crossed :-)

We already found at that the next part of the reading contest will take place in Backnang on April 11. Last time we only had one week's notice. She is busy reading a new book.