Year 4 students from 11 Sydney Catholic Schools gathered at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary School Prestons for a quizzical competition in celebration of reading and literacy.

In teams of four and dressed in wizard hats, Hawaiian leis, bright pink bows and more, the 88 students had their recall and interpretation skills tested at a first-ever cluster LITQUIZ for schools in Sydney’s south on 10 September.

A team from the host school won the day by a single point, scraping past a team from St Luke’s Revesby by blitzing categories such as ‘fractured fairytales’, ‘heroes and villains’ and ‘curious characters’.

Susan Bombardiere, Organiser and Literacy Cluster Coach, said students left the day buzzing with excitement, and that one child asked her if they could hold another one the following week.

“We know that there’s great interest when children are learning to read, but our data tells us that sometimes interest in reading drops off when students reach Stage 2,” Ms Bombardiere said. “Reading can begin to feel a bit clinical, so we wanted to bring back the love, the enjoyment and the richness around reading.”

“I also think it’s important that every child has a chance to come together and mix with other students, because sometimes individuals only know a small set of children and experiences. We often get together and we compete in big competitions in sport or public speaking, but never anything around literature.”

We wanted to bring back the love, the enjoyment and the richness around reading.

– Susan Bombardiere

The day’s aim meant participation was not limited to gifted children – involved schools were encouraged to invite students who enjoyed literature and read widely, regardless of their level of ability.

Teachers built specific time into the day to ensure children could connect with those from other schools, with the aim of reframing reading as a point of social connection. Perennial favourite Harry Potter was used as one unifier – teachers ran broom races during a lunch break, decorated the hall in a Hogwarts theme, and dressed as characters from J.K. Rowling’s famous novels.

Ms Bombardiere said the boy wizard is still a big favourite with children two decades after its original publication, along with other adventurous reads such as the Percy Jackson series. Comic novels, such as Diary of Wimpy Kid and Ahn Do’s Weirdo series, are also popular.

St Therese Catholic Primary School Sadlier-Miller student Marcus David, who attended the day, said some of his favourite books were non-fiction reads. He enjoyed a Matilda performance by students from St Catherine of Siena, and working co-operatively with other students on his team.

“I think my favourite part was probably answering the questions, which were a great test of our knowledge, and also socialising with people from other schools outside on the play area,” Marcus said.

Children enjoyed lunchtime games, were given plenty of time to chat, and enjoyed a performance of Matilda.

Students speak

“We’re so excited. Once we got here all that energy that we had burst out, and we got lots of things correct so we were very happy about that.” – Paige Bova, St Luke’s Catholic Primary School Revesby

“My favourite category was ‘Animated Animalism’. I had a good feeling that I’d get some answers correct.” – Aiden Ranieri, Mary Immaculate Catholic Primary School Bossley Park

“My sister did the litquiz two years ago, and she told me how fun it was so I was really excited to be here. I love the Harry Potter series, and I love lots of old books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wind in the Willows.”  – Oriana Pavone, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School Mt Pritchard

“We went up to Round 5 then we had a Matilda performance, which was very hectic for me because I sang the song with two other girls. My favourite books are the Alice Miranda books, Harry Potter books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.” – Rosemary Finnerty, St Catherine Sienna Catholic Primary School Prestons

“We worked in teams co-operatively and we had a matilda performance which was really good. I read books about natural disasters. It’s pretty interesting seeing what category they are, and how people survived.”  Marcus David, St Therese Catholic Primary School Sadleir-Miller