Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Kids' Lit Quiz: 2014 Australian Final

Five rounds, seven teams and lots of excitement at the 2014 Australian national final on Saturday, 22 March at Mt Annan Christian College in the south-west of Sydney.

Quizmaster Wayne Mills flew in from Auckland with the official buzzers - made by the same people who provided technology for the Lord of the Rings films - and accurate to a 100th of a second. The buzzers were the first indication that the national final would differ from the regional heats of the Kids' Lit Quiz competition.

Finals are Different

2014 Queensland winner: Bulimba State School

The regional heats of the Kids' Lit Quiz test the teams' book knowledge more accurately than a final. At regionals, all correct answers score points and no points are lost for incorrect answers. There are 10 rounds, each of 10 questions, and each team writes its answers on a sheet of paper which is handed to the markers at the end of the round. There's more time to think and answers can be changed until the sheets are handed up. Apart from the "joker" round, where each team chooses one category for double points, luck plays a relatively small part. The heats are all about the knowledge.

2014 ACT winner: Canberra Grammar School

The finals are different! The buzzer system means that only the first correct answer gets the points.  All teams start on 10 points. A correct answer is worth 2 points while an incorrect answer results in the loss of a point. Scores go up and down. It's exciting but it can be frustrating too. Luck plays a much bigger role at the national final. As in all sport, luck goes hand-in-hand with knowledge, experience and an ability to perform in competition conditions.

2014 NSW regional runner-up: Kinross Wolaroi School

The questions are different too. The questions at regionals are short and to the point. For example, at the 2014 ACT heat, the first of ten questions in the opening category of "cannibalism" was:

"What was the name of the castaway who tells his companion, Friday, that cannibalism is wrong?"

2014 Sydney winner: Macarthur Anglican School

Questions at a national final are longer - they start with less well known facts ("this book was published in 1943") and each clue builds the story with increasingly familiar information until the answer is obvious. The longer you wait, the more likely you'll know the answer BUT the longer you wait, the more likely another team will get there before you! Strategy is involved - do you jump in at the start and risk losing a point or wait until you are sure of the answer? It's the tortoise and the hare but the hare would have won if he hadn't become complacent. There's no room for complacency at a Kids' Lit Quiz final!

2014 NSW regional winner: Orange Public School

The team that buzzes first gets only one chance to answer. Once an incorrect answer is given, that whole team can only listen as the remaining clues are given to the other teams (often in sitting-on-their-hands or covering-their-mouths agony because, at this level, everyone knows the correct answer eventually.) It's no sport for weaklings!
2014 Sydney runner-up: St Patrick's College, Strathfield

Another difference; at regionals, the ten topics are all revealed to the contestants at the start of the quiz when the teams pick their joker round for double points.  At the national final, each category (of five) is revealed at the start of that round. No one knows what's coming next!

It is nail-biting stuff and we were all sitting on the edges of our seats by time the rules had been explained, the buzzers had been tested and the first question asked.

2014 Queensland runner-up: Wilston State School


The Australian Final

It's clear from the start that all teams who make it to a national final (this year, also held in Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and, of course, New Zealand - where the Quiz started 23 years ago) are competent, adventurous readers.

Since 2012, when 13 teams competed in the first Australian Kids' Lit Quiz, the competition had grown considerably.  This year, 69 teams from Queensland, NSW and the ACT participated in the "sport of reading" with the top 7 teams going through to the national final. There was one team from the ACT heat (which was the smallest heat of the 2014 competition) and the top two teams from each of the other heats.  The finalists were:

Queensland heat:  Bulimba Public School and Wilston State School
NSW regional heat (Orange): Orange Public School and Kinross Wolaroi School
ACT heat: Canberra Grammar School
Sydney heat:  Macarthur Anglican School, St Patrick's College Strathfield

If you click on the links, you can read how these teams read their way to the national final.

At the final, the book knowledge shown by all teams was astounding! The quiz master was often interrupted by a buzzer before he had finished the first sentence of a question. More often than not, the answer was right!

There was a good mix of questions about Australian authors and books as well as internationally known authors and titles. Popular contemporary fiction was covered as well as the classics, graphic novels and comics, picture books and young adult fiction. A wide range of subject matter and genre, each question genuinely testing children who read for pleasure.

The eventual winner, the team from Canberra Grammar School, had a good run in the third round, Picture Books, which allowed them to take an 8 point lead into the break. The boys were then able to rely on that buffer to build their lead after the break, taking advantage of the points difference to only answer questions that they were confident they knew. The chasing teams were forced to take more risks, resulting in more volatile scoring. The winning margin looked more significant than it did in the moment. Kinross Wolaroi School placed second and Orange Public School placed third.

Orange Public School, third place, 2014 Australian national final
Kinross Wolaroi School, second place, 2014 Australian national final
Canberra Grammar School, first place, 2014 Australian national final

The Canberra Grammar School team is now invited to the Kids' Lit Quiz world final in Cornwall, United Kingdom in July to compete against the other national champions:

United Kingdom: City of London School for Girls
Hong Kong: Kellett School
United States: Sedgwick Middle School, Connecticut
Canada: Royal St George's College, Toronto
South Africa: St John's Preparatory College, Johannesburg
and the national teams from Singapore (to be determined on 19 April) and New Zealand (to be determined on 10 June).

Let the fundraising commence!

Congratulations to all participants at the Australian national final - your parents and teachers are awed by your book knowledge and your ability to work as a team. As Wayne says, you are all winners because you are readers:
Over the 22 or so years I've been running the Kids' Lit Quiz, I've found that the students who get the most out of the Quiz have tended to be those who read widely for pleasure. This happens at every level of the competition from regional heats to the world final - whether or not their team goes on to the next level. 
Those of us involved with the Quiz measure its success by the number of kids whose love of reading is enhanced and extended by their participation.
Over the years, I've talked to many, many children after each competition who go home curious and excited about new books and wanting to re-read others mentioned in the course of the competition - regardless of their team's result on the day. Any disappointment is soon replaced by an eagerness to discover new books to read. These are the children who read for pleasure.
We hope you enjoyed your Kids' Lit Quiz experience this year and participate again next year.


Enormous thanks to Jenny Cranston and Mount Annan Christian College for hosting both the Sydney heat and the national final.

Thanks to Walker Books Australia and Collins Booksellers, Orange for providing book prizes for the national final and to the other donors, listed below, who provided books for the 2014 competition. We couldn't have done it without you!

Allen and Unwin
Penguin Books
HarperCollins Australia
Pan McMillan
Hardie Grant Egmont
Kids' Book Review
Ipswich Teacher/Librarian Network
The Book Warehouse
Scholastic Australia

See the book publishers page under the Reading for Australia header for all of the publishers supporting the 2014 Kids' Lit Quiz Australia competition.  From this list, you can link through to each publisher's website for lots of information about books and authors - see, in particular, the children's and young adult fiction pages on each site.

Please also see the sponsors page for all sponsors, donors and supporters of the 2014 Australian competition.

Thanks to all the teachers who bought their students along for a day of literary fun and games. We hope you had fun too. Thanks also to Jenny Stubbs, Queensland coordinator for Kids' Lit Quiz, for providing the photographs shown here.

Particular thanks to Softlink for their continuing support of the Kids' Lit Quiz. As in 2013, Softlink donated the trophy for the winning team in each Australian heat as well as the trophies for the national final.

Looking forward to 2015

We've already started planning for the 2015 Kids' Lit Quiz competition. Watch this space! If you're curious about the Kids' Lit Quiz, these eloquent words from Trevor Darwin of the UK Kids' Lit Quiz might inspire you to investigate further: 
As a former teacher of English and school principal, I am enormously impressed by the power of the Kids’ Lit Quiz to inspire students to value reading and gain enormous pleasure from it. I’ve seen at first hand the infectious way in which the passion of a small number of children quickly transmits to their peers and influences them to read with greater enthusiasm.
It also inspires adults. Teachers and school librarians who have been introduced to the quiz tend to become wholehearted supporters, making their annual regional heat a focal event in the school calendar having to select their teams from increasing numbers of committed young readers year on year.
Authors too, once introduced to the quiz, see its enormous potential as a way of generating and nurturing a love of literature and an appreciation of the power of language to imagine, enquire, educate and entertain.
In the UK, the quiz is supported by many of the country’s leading children’s authors who are constantly astounded by the breadth and depth of the knowledge displayed by the kids taking part.
Although many kids leave their regional heat with book prizes, book tokens and small cash prizes, every one of them leaves with something less tangible but much more valuable. They have become part of a growing international community at the heart of which is a passion, a skill set and an asset for life.
Please contact the national coordinator, Nicole Deans, at kidslitquizaustralia@gmail.com to find out how to be a part of the 2015 Australian competition.

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