Grand Ridge Elementary’s Lightning Readers win county library contest

April 17, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

The Grand Ridge Elementary School Lightning Readers celebrate winning the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge on March 23. By Tom Corriga

They started in October, eight students setting out to read 10 books.

They spent plenty of their own time between the covers of those books, but toward the end of the challenge they gave up their recess and lunch times to stay in the classroom in order to read and answer questions about what they’d read.

“And all that paid off,” declared Grand Ridge Elementary School student Gargi Panatula.

The Issaquah School District has entered the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge for 11 years. Teams competitively answer questions about assigned books. Issaquah squads have made the finals previously. But the district has never won the championship. That changed March 23 when Grand Ridge’s Lightning Readers went the distance and beat out three other finalist teams to win the Grand Challenge.

“And I think we got smarter,” team member Emma Huryn said.

Although they were probably pretty smart to begin with, there is evidence that Emma is correct. In the contest rounds leading up to the Grand Challenge, the Lightning Readers missed a grand total of four questions out of 72. During the championship contest, they answered 25 out of 30 questions correctly.

In addition to Emma and Gargi, the Lighting Readers consisted of fourth-graders Anna Zhang, Ashta Soni, Eric Hong, Collin Mitzel, Brandon Wu and Tyana Strait.

Grand Ridge started out with about 49 students and narrowed those numbers down to seven team members and one alternate, teacher and Lightning Readers coach Sanjana Pathak said. The Lighting Readers had to then win some in-district competitions, including an overtime match with students from Creekside Elementary School. After that, they went on to compete against schools from other districts.

All in all, some 1,900 students from numerous districts took part, said Ann Crewdson, the children’s section supervisor for the Issaquah branch of the library. Toward the end of the competition, the Lightning Readers were going up against fifth-grade teams, she noted. Crewdson also wanted to compliment the members of the Issaquah team on their good sportsmanship.

For the championship, Grand Ridge had a sort of home-field advantage, taking on three other squads in a match at the library service center in Issaquah. Their challengers came from the Highline, Auburn and Lake Washington school districts. The Lightning Readers would not admit to any nervousness prior to the championship round.

“I think the parents were more nervous than us,” Gargi said.

According to Collin, the wins were a team effort. He said the students would all talk with each other, trying to decide on the correct answers. But debating answers was the least enjoyable part of the competitions, Collin added, saying that otherwise the contests were a lot of fun.

The books read by the students included titles such as “The Gollywhopper Games,” “Shakespeare’s Secret” and “The View From Saturday.” That last seemed hands down to be the least favorite of most of the Lightning Readers, while “The Gollywhopper Games” was probably the most popular.

In addition to Pathak, the Grand Ridge team had three other coaches: Allison King, Katie Gahnberg and Michael Herzberg, each a teacher at the school. Those coaches deserve a lot of credit, Crewdson said.

Eric spoke up right away when the team was questioned about what the students learned from the competition experience. He admitted he previously had never much enjoyed reading.

“It kind of encouraged us to read,” he said of the library challenge.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “Grand Ridge Elementary’s Lightning Readers win county library contest”

  1. Joslynn on May 10th, 2012 6:46 pm

    Shout out to my best friend Tyana Strait i’m so proud of you! And,thank you Issaquah Press! You all are great !!!!

  2. Sally on June 26th, 2012 2:31 pm

    This is a great experience for kids to learn on their own, to work on group level and to achieve something they probably won’t think they can achieve at the very beginning. It is something every parents can learn too – expectation, hard work and reward too. The team spirits are so important too. Proud of these kids!

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