Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics

The Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics is a city-wide collaborative reading competition coordinated by Philadelphia READS, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the School District of Philadelphia, the Archdiocese, and the City of Philadelphia.

What It Is

The Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics engages fourth through eighth graders from Philadelphia’s public, parochial, charter, independent and after school programs in a reading competition. Teams of up to 12 students collectively read the books on the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics book list and practice working together as a team to answer questions about those books.

How It Works

The teams come together in May at an assigned college campus location to answer questions about the books. The teams accumulate points for every correct answer during three rounds of competition earning each team member a blue, red, or green ribbon based on the number of points their team has earned. Volunteers from area businesses join with members of the community to ask questions and keep score.

To Register

Please email for access to registration materials. A team is not officially registered until there is a completed the online application, submission of the $25 registration fee, and a completed contract is returned. A confirmation email is sent to all teams who are officially registered.

Become A Sponsor

Become a 15th Annual Reading Olympics Sponsor and help raise a city of readers. Sponsorships, from our strongest supporters, are needed to cover the cost of hosting a citywide event of this scale. This year’s Reading Olympics will be so massive that Philadelphia READS will host eight individual competitions with awards ceremonies throughout Philadelphia. Sponsorship Benefits Chart to review sponsorship benefits.

Please contact Nadira Branch, director of development, at (215) 279-7450, ext. 204, or for more information.

2018 Reading Olympics Sponsors
Host Sponsor:

The Wawa Foundation

Goldman Sachs
Holman Enterprises

2018 Competition Sites and Dates

  • Temple University (Tuesday, May 1)
  • Community College of Philadelphia – Main Campus (Monday, May 7)
  • Community College of Philadelphia – Northeast Campus (Tuesday, May 8)
  • School District of Philadelphia – 440 N. Broad Street (Monday, May 14)
  • LaSalle University (Thursday, May 17)
  • Philadelphia University (Tuesday, May 22)
  • Saint Joseph’s University (Wednesday, May 23)
  • University of Pennsylvania (date TBD)
Middle School List (15 books)
Author Title ISBN
1. Almond, David Skellig 978-0440416029
2. Baskin, Nora Raleigh Anything But Typical 978-1416995005
3. Boyce, Frank Cottrell Cosmic 978-0061836886
4. Eager, Lindsay Hour of the Bees 978-0763691202
5. Hilton, Marilyn Full Cicada Moon 978-0147516015
6. Kamkwamba, William & Bryan Mealer The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young People’s edition) 978-0147510426
7. Lewis, John & Andrew Aydin March One 978-1603093002
8. Morpurgo, Michael War Horse 978-0439796644
9. Nielsen, Jennifer A Night Divided 978-0545682442
10. Park, Linda Sue When My Name Was Keoko 978-0547722399
11. Pennypacker, Sara Pax 978-0008158286
12. Philbrick, Rodman Freak the Mighty 978-0439286060
13. Reynolds, Jason Ghost 978-1481450164
14. Riordan, Rick Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard 978-1423163374
15. St. George, Judith The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr 978-0425288214
Intermediate School List (19 books)
Author Title ISBN
1. Anderson, John David Ms. Bixby’s Last Day 978-0062338181
2. Applegate, Katherine Crenshaw 978-1250091666
3. Bertman, Jennifer Chambliss Book Scavenger 978-1250079800
4. Creech, Sharon Moo 978-0062415264
5. Dorris, Michael Morning Girl 978-0786813582
6. Eulberg, Elizabeth The Great Shelby Holmes: Girl Detective 978-1681190532
7. Hunt, Lynda Mullaly Fish in a Tree 978-0142426425
8. Ignatow, Amy The Mighty Odds 978-1419723711
9. Kraft, Betsy Harvey The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris 978-1627790727
10. Libenson, Terri Invisible Emmie 978-0062484932
11. Maddox, Jake & Katie Wood Softball Surprise 978-1434279293
12. Neri, G. Ghetto Cowboy 978-0763664534
13. Park, Linda Sue A Long Walk to Water 978-0547577319
14. Pollack, Pamela & Meg Belviso Who Was Alexander Hamilton? 978-0399544279
15. Moser, Elise & Scot Ritchie What Milly Did: the Remarkable Pioneer of Plastics Recycling 978-1554988938
16. Tavares, Matt Growing Up Pedro 978-0763693114
17. Taylor, Mildred Song of the Trees 978-0142500750
18. Turnage, Sheila Three Times Lucky 978-0142426050
19. Williams-Garcia, Rita P.S. Be Eleven 978-0061938641


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How it Works

  • October: Book lists posted to Philadelphia READS website.
  • November: Registration Opens.
  • January: Registration Closes.
  • February: Teams advised of their assigned competition sites.
  • March: Sample practice questions uploaded onto Philadelphia READS website.
  • April: T-shirts ready for pick up by Reading Coaches.
  • May: Reading Olympics!
Team Selection & Scoring
  • Teams are made up of 6 to 12 students from grades 4 through 6 (Intermediate teams) and grades 6 through 8 (Middle School teams). Teams are encouraged to be inclusive and have a mix of gender, age, and reading ability.
  • Teams will be asked questions about each of the 15 – 20 books; Intermediate teams (4th grade through 6th) answer 20 questions. Middle school teams (6th through 8th) answer 15 questions. Team members collaborate on the answers and one team member (the team captain or designee) responds. Teams have only 15 seconds to answer the question.
  • Each team participates in three (3) rounds of fifteen or twenty questions each. Each question answered correctly earns one point for the team. If the first team cannot answer their question in 15 seconds, the second team will have an opportunity to do so, earning an additional point for their team (see the protocol on page 12).
  • Team scores are cumulative for all rounds. Teams are awarded blue, red, or green ribbons based on the total number of points earned.
    • Intermediate Teams:
      • Green Ribbon: Below 30 pts.
      • Red Ribbon: 30 – 49 pts.
      • Blue Ribbon: 50 – 60 pts.
    • Middle School Teams:
      • Green Ribbon: Below 25 pts.
      • Red Ribbon: 25 – 34 pts.
      • Blue Ribbon: 35 – 45 pts.
Coach Responsibilities

Teams are encouraged to come up with a team name such as “Reading Rascals.” Teams are also encouraged to decorate the back of their official Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics T-shirt with their team name and logo to help create unity and excitement. These t-shirts must be worn to the competition, usually over school uniforms. Considerate and courteous behavior is expected from all participants. Your team represents their organization or school. Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend the competition as spectators.

One of the major responsibilities of the team coach is to set the appropriate tone for the competition by reinforcing the two goals of the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics:

  • To instill a love of reading in young students and
  • To teach cooperation and teamwork.

A team coach:

  • Meets with the team periodically to coordinate the books to make sure all books are being read before the competition in May. It is the expectation that teams will practice at their center, library, or school by using practice questions, creating their own questions, and holding book discussions on an ongoing basis.
  • Is responsible for arranging and paying for transportation to and from the event.
  • Communicates with the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics staff as required.
  • Accompanies the team to the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics event and supervises the team participants.
  • Encourages parents to support at-home reading, offer to serve as escorts, and to attend the event.
  • Prepares the team by practicing the competition protocol (see page 12).
  • Previews all resources before you use them with your students to be sure that they are appropriate for your particular group.
Sample Questions

Sample Questions

  • The questions asked at the competition are very straightforward, factual questions. They usually relate to the plot, characters or setting, and the answers are easily provable.
  • The sample questions provided here are meant to give you an idea of the type of question that will be asked.
  • All questions begin: “In the book,” followed by the book title. The answers are provided below the question in parentheses.

Middle School Sample Questions and Answers:

  1. In the book, Freak the Mighty, with whom does Max live?
    (Max lives with his grandparents, Gram and Grim.)
  2. In the book, Ghost, Coach Brody takes away the newbies’ silverware at the Chinese restaurant. What do the newbies have to do to get the silverware back?
    (Tell something good about themselves that most people don’t know)
  3. In the book Pax, what is Peter’s favorite sport?
  4. In the book, Anything But Typical, who is PhoenixBird?
    (Accept a reasonable answer: Rebecca, the person Jason corresponds with on Storyboard; the person who reads Jason’s stories and whose stories he reads on Storyboard)
  5. In the book, Anything But Typical, what was the name of the workshop Jason attended at the Storyboard convention?
    (Turning Facts into Fiction)
  6. In the book, A Night Divided, what city did the wall built by the Russians divide into east and west?
  7. In the book, A Night Divided, why did Gerta, Fritz and their mother whisper or write notes that they burned while in their apartment?
    (Accept a reasonable response: the apartment was bugged by the Stasi/ Ministry for State Security/ Secret Police)
  8. In the book, Hour of the Bees, in grandfather Serge’s stories what does he tell Carol/Carolina
    happened to the lake that had been close to the ranch?
    (The bees carried the water away, drop by drop)
  9. In the book, Hour of the Bees, how long does grandfather Serge say the drought has lasted?
    (100 years)
  10. In the book, War Horse, who helped care for the horses when they were held by the Germans?
    (Emilie and her grandfather)

Intermediate Sample Questions and Answers:

  1. In the book, A Long Walk to Water, what did others name the group that Salva travelled along with on his journey?
    (The Lost Boys)
  2. In the book, Book Scavenger, who is Steve in the story?
    (Steve is the name James gives to the piece of hair that sticks up from his head)
  3. In the book, The Fantastic Ferris Wheel, what did George Ferris do when the July storm hit the fairgrounds and damaged many of the fair attractions?
    (He and his wife rode his wheel in spite of the storm to show his faith in the wheel and how safe if was.)
  4. In the book, Invisible Emmie, what did Tyler and Emmie have in common?
    (They both are good artists.)
  5. In the book, The Mighty Odds, why were some students called the Company Kids?
    (Accept a reasonable response: They were the children whose parents worked at Auxano, the large company in town.)
  6. In the book, Morning Girl, how does Star Boy get his name?
    (Accept any: He says he likes to look at the stars; he likes the night time; he likes darkness best, he wants to be a bat, sleep all day and fly around at night)
  7. In the book, The Mighty Odds, what was Martina’s special ability or power?
    (Martina could change the color of her eyes.)
  8. In the book, Three Times Lucky, what did Dale, Mo, and Miss Rose do during the hurricane to pass the time?
    (They played cards)
  9. In the book, A Long Walk to Water, which important skill did Michael, the Irish Social Worker, begin to teach Salva at the camp?
    (Michael began teaching Salva the English alphabet letters)
  10. In the book, Growing Up Pedro, how did Pedro practice throwing the ball when he was a young boy?
    (Pedro threw rocks at the ripe mango trees)
Recommended Vendors

Towne Book Center & Café: To order your books, please visit Use the link to the Reading Olympics on the left panel, second box under “Educators.” Look for the “Philadelphia County Reading Olympics” section and follow the directions to place an order or request an order sheet.

Books are discounted at 30% and may be ordered as a set or individually. Shipping and handling charges will be $10.00. All orders are shipped directly to your school via FEDEX. The Towne Book Center & Café accepts purchase orders (School District of Philadelphia vendor number 1012592), school checks, or credit cards for payment purposes.

Please be sure to order the correct list for your team (Intermediate vs. Middle School).

If you have any further questions about ordering, contact Sarah Danforth by email at

Scholastic: Individual texts may be available in paperback here


What are the goals of the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics?

To foster a love of reading, to teach cooperation and teamwork, and to expose children to local college campuses.

Getting Started / Registration

How do I register a team?
  • Teams are not officially registered until all 3 registration requirements are processed by Philadelphia READS.
    • Completion of the online application
    • Payment of $25 registration fee is received
    • Reading Olympics Contract is completed and returned
  • Registration opens November 1, 2017. Email to get access to the online application.
How will I know if my registration has been received?

Once you have completed the online application, submitted the registration fee, and returned the Reading Olympics Contract you will receive a confirmation email. Your team’s spot is not officially held until you have received the confirmation email.

When does registration close?

January 5, 2018 is our deadline, but registration will close when all 150 slots are filled should that happen sooner.

Why is grade 6 listed as both intermediate and middle school?

This is because some elementary schools go up to grade 6, but some middle schools start at grade 6 as well.

What happens if I am put on a waiting list?

If a team drops out, or more space is secured, you will be called in the order that you registered.

How many teams may I register?

For 2018, each school may register:

  • 2 Intermediate teams (Each team = 6-12 students + 2 alternates)
  • 2 Middle School teams (Each team = 6-12 students + 2 alternates).
  • No more than 14 students per team may attend the competition in May for either age group.
If I register an Intermediate team and a Middle School team will they be competing on the same day/place?

Not necessarily, the Middle School competition is usually held on a different day or week. Competition dates are determined by the colleges and universities who host us.

Why are there limitations on the number of teams and students per team?

We have limited space at our host colleges and universities. We’d like as many schools/groups to participate as possible.

The Books

How do I find the booklist?

The Intermediate list of 20 books and the Middle School list of 15 books will be posted on our website when registration opens. Both a tracking form and a list to be sent home can be found in the Coach’s Manual. Please be sure to use the Philadelphia READS book list- not the book list other counties use.

Where can I get the books?
  • Teams are responsible for finding their own books. Towne Book Center ( is a vendor we have worked with and accepts purchase orders. When ordering from a vendor, make sure that you let them know which level book collection (Intermediate or Middle School) you need.
  • Towne Book Center offers a 30% for books for the Reading Olympics. Often the Philadelphia READS Jacoby Book Bank has some of the books; stop in on Mondays & Wednesday afternoons (2:30-6:00 pm) during the school year.
What happens if I am unable to get one of the titles on the list?

Each team is responsible for having read all the titles on the lists. Each team will be asked questions about each of the books. There are no exceptions.

Where can I get sample questions for the books?

Sample questions will be provided on the website in the spring.

How are the books chosen?

A committee of librarians and educators carefully choose titles that represent a wide range of interest and ability. The list includes books that reflect the cultures and ethnicities of the city of Philadelphia.

Some of the books on the list are very easy/hard for my group. Why?

We recommend that teams are made up of a mix of the three grades and therefore we provide books with a range of reading levels. We hope that teams are composed of a variety of readers and not just the “best readers” in the school. Remember, our goal is to foster a love of reading!

The Team Coach

Coach’s Manual
What is the role of the team coach?

The primary task of the team coach is to “hook” your students on books. The team coach makes sure the team is fully prepared to compete, is responsible for making the books available to the students, arranging transportation for the team to get to and from the competition and communicates with the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics staff as required.
It is also our expectation that you will preview all resources before you use them with your students to be sure that they are appropriate for your particular group. For more information on expectations see page 4 and page 8.

The Competition

When will I know the date and location for the competition for my team?

You will receive an email after registration has closed from a site coordinator.

What time is the competition?

A: Registration begins at about 9:30. There are 3 rounds of competition. The first round usually begins about 10am. The actual time depends upon the arrival of teams. Each round lasts approximately ½ hour. The award ceremony begins as soon as the third round is completed. We try to begin as early as possible so that we can have everyone back on their buses no later than 12:30.

Why is the competition in May?

The colleges and universities that we use to hold our competitions are able to provide the space we need during the week between the spring semester and the first summer session.

Why aren’t lunches or snacks provided?

Most of the colleges and universities do not allow food in their classrooms and auditoriums. In addition, we have no funds to purchase lunch for the students. Many schools have lunch celebrations for their teams when they return to school.

Why don’t the questioners (moderators) read the books first?

The moderators and scorekeepers are volunteers. We require about 200 volunteers to run the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics. We rely on businesses, civic groups and retirees to serve as volunteers. We are grateful for their help and cannot require them to read the books.

Why don’t we have one overall winner?

Our goal is to foster a love of reading and to teach cooperation and teamwork.

My students and I love the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics. Is there a way I can I help support the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics?

Yes! You can make a donation to Philadelphia READS – Your generous donation supports the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics and the other Philadelphia Reads core programs.

You can either donate directly on our website: using the links for Paypal or through United Way. Please quote United Way #12682.

If you purchase books from Amazon, visit first, select the Amazon link, which will take you straight to their website, but a small donation will be paid to us at no extra cost to you.

If I have any questions about anything to do with the Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics, who should I contact?

Call or email our office at or (215) 279 – 7450.



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As a volunteer you will be asked to either be a moderator (asking the questions), a scorekeeper (keeping score), or support staff. Don’t worry, all the questions and answers are provided for you! There will be training at the site on the morning of the event. We guarantee that you’ll have fun as you help to make this rewarding activity a success.

Dates and Locations

There are 8 different competitions in the month of May. You can volunteer for one or all of them.

  • Temple University (Tuesday, May 1)
  • Community College of Philadelphia – Main Campus (Monday, May 7)
  • Community College of Philadelphia – Northeast Campus (Tuesday, May 8)
  • School District of Philadelphia – 440 N. Broad Street (Monday, May 14)
  • LaSalle University (Thursday, May 17)
  • Philadelphia University (Tuesday, May 22)
  • Saint Joseph’s University (Wednesday, May 23)
  • University of Pennsylvania (date TBD)
Logistics on the Day

There are 8 different competitions in the month of May. You can volunteer for one or all of them. We ask that you arrive at 8:15 a.m. for training & light breakfast. Your responsibilities conclude around Noon, but you are more than welcome to stay for the closing ceremony! A volunteer T-shirt will be provided.

How to Sign Up

If you are interested in volunteering for the 2018 Reading Olympics please complete the Volunteer Application. By completing this application you are confirming your commitment to volunteering at the selected competition(s). We cannot run the Reading Olympic competitions without volunteers so it is very important that you honor your commitment. You will receive a confirmation email once your application has been received.

If you have additional questions or concerns please email

For more information about The Philadelphia READS Reading Olympics, participating, or sponsorship, please contact us at or call us at 215-279-7450.