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Sandy Journal

Edgemont’s, Albion’s March Madness book tournament to reveal its winner

Apr 03, 2022 06:40PM ● By Julie Slama

First-grade teacher Hailey Beutler updates Edgemont’s March Madness book tournament after the first votes came in for students’ favorite picture books. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

As March Madness for both men’s and women’s NCAA teams comes to a close in early April, Edgemont and Albion students also are anticipating the end of their tournament the same time.

In its fourth year, Edgemont elementary students are selecting the best picture book in their own book bracket. Each teacher and the principal selected their favorite picture book, matching the theme, “The Favorites,” to begin the tournament with the Sweet 16. The winning book is to be revealed April 1.

“Picture books are for everybody,” book tournament organizer and first-grade teacher Hailey Beutler said. “The cool thing for the older kids, too, is that they can see that. You never grow out of picture books.”

A giant bracket is posted in the hall so students will know which books move on to the next round in their big dance. Many teachers have copies of the picture books, or they have access to them online. The school library also may have copies students can read. 

The school typically purchases multiple copies of the winning book so each classroom has a copy.

It’s a tradition that excites the students about reading, Beutler said.

“The kids get to vote on them, and we make a big deal out of which ones are moving forward. We make it fun, and the kids get super into it. I have a lot of kids asking, ‘Which books are the ones moving on?’ and I have to remind them that we have to wait for all the classes to finish reading it and give me their votes. They’re very engaged and invested in the process,” she said.

She also is a fan.

“I found the idea from another teacher on a social media site and was like, ‘Hey! That would fun.’ I have always been a basketball fan, so when I got to combine my love of basketball with my love of reading, I was all over it,” she said, adding that she expanded the idea she saw on the post from a class tournament to one for her entire school.

In the four years that the Edgemont has been holding the tournament, only one picture book entry has repeated: “The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors;” the book that won their March Madness the very first year is now in the tournament again this year.

The March Madness book tournament is a tradition that Beutler hopes will be carried over to Glacier Hills Elementary next year when Edgemont and Bell View Elementary students combine to form a new school.

“We’re still going to give each class a copy of the winning book and hope we can keep the tradition going,” she said. “We’ll just have to buy more copies since we’ll have double the teachers (at the new school).”

At Albion, the tournament may stretch back 10 years or more, said Bridget Rees, teacher librarian/media specialist.

“It’s a strong tradition and the students all gather around the bulletin board to see the rankings,” she said.

The theme at Albion is “Boys versus Girls,” where Rees selected strong male or female characters in books in a wide selection of genres from realistic to historical fiction to graphic novels to science fiction.

“I tried picking characters where the largest number of students would be familiar with; many of these books have been popular all year long,” she said.

The book pool began with 32 books and each student and faculty member could enter their brackets in a fun competition. The student and teacher winners, those who pick the most books correctly, will be announced April 1 during halftime at the eighth-grade students versus faculty basketball game and each will receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

“It’s amazing to see how talk around here transforms during March and how they’re excited having conversations are about books,” Rees said. “It’s a fun way to engage students.”