Return to Headlines

Field Announced for EMS 'March Book Madness'

February may have just arrived, but Eastchester Middle School students are already gearing up for March Madness. Over the last two weeks, EMS Strategic Reading teacher Courtney Jukic will be visiting sixth and seventh grade classrooms to introduce an initiative designed to promote independent reading—and the discussion of books—among the middle school populace. 


Borrowing the tournament format of the popular NCAA basketball event, March Book Madness will have middle schoolers voting throughout the month to determine which book will be crowned the ‘favorite’ at Eastchester Middle School this year.


Jukic—who oversaw a similar event while working in the Mamaroneck Central School District—selected this year’s “Sweet 16” after surveying sixth and seventh graders about the books they felt could be labeled “essential reads” for their classmates. 


“I asked them, ‘What’s one book that you think every middle schooler should read?’ and we got 400 responses,” said Jukic. “I was able to go through the data and look for ones that had been recommended often.”


The 16 books selected for this year’s tournament run the gamut of genre, tone and even style, as fantasy series such as “Harry Potter” will run up against gritty coming-of-age tales like “The Outsiders” or historical novels such as “The War That Saved my Life.” 


“We have different levels of readers, and we want everyone to be involved; we have graphic novels for kids who like graphic novels and Harry Potter for the kids who are reading long series books that are hundreds and hundreds of pages,” said Jukic. “This allows the kids to participate in the way they are most comfortable.”


The tournament-style voting process will encourage discussion of the books, added Jukic, as she expects the middle schoolers to advocate for their favorite works by urging their friends to pick them up. 


The hope is that those discussions will generate more excitement around reading in general. 


“Kids will be having conversations in the cafeteria, campaigning for their favorite books. Those are conversations that don’t normally take place in a classroom setting,” she said. “If you can recommend something and provide your friends with reasons they should read a book, it shows that the book has sparked something in you that you want others to feel as well.”


Although the tournament field has been announced, the brackets will not officially be unveiled until the second week of February, giving students a head start when it comes to exploring some of the titles they may not be familiar with. Copies of the books will be available in classrooms as well as in a display housed in the EHS/EMS Library. 


Jukic said she is excited for the official launch of March Book Madness and believes that as this becomes a yearly event, it will help expose middle school students to books they might not otherwise pick up.


“One of the things we did [in Mamaroneck] was if a book won, it was out the next year,” she said. “We don’t want the same books winning every year. We want to keep introducing some new blood into the competition.”