The numbers are in, and the results of this year's fourth-grade Genre Challenge at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School are off the charts.
The 77 students who composed this year's fourth-grade class learned last week they had read 4,918 books over the course of the school year.
The announcement was made during a celebration held on the last day of school, May 23, at the Grandview Heights Public Library. The library partners with Edison/Larson to present the Genre Challenge.
That figure of 4,918 books is the largest total in the history of the program, fourth-grade teacher Jen Palmer said.
The challenge for students is not just to read a lot of books, but to explore a variety of genres, youth services librarian Rachel Rausch said.
"We want them to try some genres they haven't tried before," she said. "They may find a genre they don't expect to like becomes a new favorite."
"The reason we do the Genre Challenge is because, at this age, many students are beginning to fall into reading just the genres they like and are comfortable with," Palmer said.
Encouraging youngsters to try new types of literature will help as they advance into higher grade levels and find their reading assignments becoming more varied and challenging, Rausch said.
This year's challenge had a "Star Wars" theme, she said.
"We had a number of special activities at the library for the fourth grade, including a book 'tasting' party and a book 'speed-dating' event," Rausch said. "The speed-dating program was like the kind of social gatherings where you spend two minutes at a time talking to a lot of different people, except here it was spending two minutes reading books from different genres."
Students could earn badges as they met goals for reading books in a particular genre and reached the overall goal of 40 books, she said.
"We had a lot of students who went well beyond the 40-book benchmark," Rausch said. "Some read 50, 60, 70 and even more than that."
The two top readers are Stephanie Chute, who read 183 books, and Sierra Farnham, who notched 173 books on her list.
"The Genre Challenge is fun for me because I love to read, but what's great about it is that it helps inspire people who maybe aren't as willing to read to try to meet the challenge," Stephanie said.
Even rabid readers can explore new genres, and that makes the Genre Challenge beneficial for students, Sierra said.
"I've never been interested much in historical fiction, until I read 'The War that Saved My Life,' " she said.
The novel is about Ada, a 10-year-old London girl confined to her home with a clubfoot during World War II. When her brother is sent away to escape the war, Ada sneaks off to join him.
"All of a sudden I found myself relating so much to this girl and her real-life experiences," Sierra said. "It made me realize that historical fiction connects you in a real way to the characters."
Stephanie found herself enthralled by the Ruby Redfort mystery series.
"It's all about this girl genius and it's really cool," she said. "I never expected I would like a mystery book."
Ben Richardson discovered an appreciation for graphic novels.
"I like to read informative and historical books, but when I started reading some graphic novels, they were really fun," he said. "I just liked how they are funny and comic or really adventurous and I like how the drawings go with the words."
The best part of the Genre Challenge is discovering new kinds of books and new writers, Abby Palmisciano said.
"It's just super-fun because it gives you a challenge to try to meet," she said. "Everybody was super-motivated to read 40 books and become a Genre Jedi."