A team of four South African boys has won the World Final of the global Kids Lit Quiz in Toronto, Canada – an event widely known as ‘the Olympics of reading’.
The boys, learners at St John’s Prep School in Johannesburg, emerged victorious against teams from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States at a thrilling event at Toronto’s Oakville Performing Arts Centre.
According to Wayne Mills, the New Zealand-based quizmaster and founder of the Kids Lit Quiz, the team performed well in each of the 10 categories of questions, gradually extending their lead to secure a convincing win.
Benjamin Trisk, CEO of Exclusive Books who sponsored the team in South Africa, expressed the book chain’s delight at the win. “We are thrilled to hear that St John’s College was the winner of the international Kids Lit Quiz held in Toronto. St John’s is one of South Africa’s great schools. It has a stellar international reputation and we are proud that boys from this school have excelled in a specific field of the culture that drives us. Without passion, little can be achieved. With passion South African children have shown that they can compete with (and beat) the rest.”
An elated Nicky Sulter, the St John’s Prep librarian and the school’s Kids Lit Quiz team coach, said the boys were ecstatic about their achievement.
“We are all over the moon!” said Sulter. “The boys have been incredibly enthusiastic about preparing for this event, and have really enjoyed all the reading that has gone into this victory.”
She highlighted how important it was for boys especially to be recognised for their interest and talent in literature.
“This annual event keeps the boys reading all year, whether or not they make it into the school’s Kids Lit Quiz teams,” she said. St John’s Prep enters two teams into the Johannesburg round each year.
In the World Final, Mills asks challenging questions on just about any children’s book ever written; this year’s categories included arch-enemies, historical fiction, Grimm’s fairy tales, poetry, authors and comic book characters. The high pressure competition uses a first-to-the-buzzer format where teams earn points for correct answers but lose points if they miss the mark.
According to Mills, an encouraging trend has been the growing numbers of boys in the teams, suggesting that more boys are reading from a younger age.
“Of the 32 participants in this year’s final, 24 were boys,” he said. “This is a very encouraging sign, and shows a reversal of the kind of ratio we had in the quiz about 10 years ago.”
The eight teams in the World Final fought a long, hard battle during the previous year to get to the final. They won their various national rounds, which collectively involved over 1 000 teams of young readers aged 10-12 years old. To earn its place in Toronto, the St John’s team had to beat 40 Johannesburg teams just to get through to the national finals, where it then had to face the winners of other city rounds in Pretoria, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Knysna, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
Over 100 South African schools participated in this year’s Kids Lit Quiz, said National SA coordinator Marj Brown, HOD of History at Roedean School in Johannesburg.
“South Africa holds its own against the best in the world,” said Brown. “Since we joined the quiz in 2004, a South African team has now won the World Final on three occasions. It is an exciting and motivating event that really brings reading to life for thousands of young people and broadens their scope of reading.”
The quiz was started by Mills 26 years ago to reward good readers in the same way that schools recognise achievement in sport.
“With this international competition now representing so many countries, the participants are increasingly able to meet up with ‘kindred spirits’ from other cultures – joined by their shared love of reading,” said Brown. “This can only contribute positively to understanding and tolerance among people from a young age.”