The Hamilton Spectator

Kids Lit Quiz national finals held this week in Hamilton

Heats will be at the Hamilton Public Library


At Kids Lit Quiz, which brings together thousands of reading athletes from around the world, they don’t have a torch for participan­ts to carry through the countrysid­e like they do in the Olympics.

But if you could see the glow coming from Alison Will, you’d know why they don’t need one.

The Canadian national finals for Kids Lit Quiz are in Hamilton and Toronto this week, and it’s like Will and other KLQ enthusiast­s — and there are many — have been hooked up to a power generator, such is their light and energy for the event.

That power generator is called reading and a shared passion for literature and learning, and the beauty is that no matter how big the surge they draw it’s not like the lights dim everywhere else — the more they light up the brighter everyone gets. That’s their torch.

And that’s the idea, more or less and with a pinch of figurative licence, behind one of the most incredible internatio­nal movements for good you might never have heard of.

Kids Lit Quiz was started by New Zealander Wayne Mills in the 1990s and started gathering momentum in the 2000s, when it burst out beyond the South Pacific and got taken up in places like England, the United States, Canada and India. Canada started participat­ing in 2011. Now, Kids Lit Quiz enjoys the participat­ion of New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Nigeria, Canada, United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

The way Kids Lit Quiz works is that teams of 10- to 14-year-olds are formed, usually at schools, in the various participat­ing countries. They compete in heats regionally, then nationally, all leading up to and culminatin­g in the world finals. This year, the finals take place on July 10 in Canberra, Australia.

The quiz consists of questions about books, chiefly youth literature, Anything from the “Harry Potter” series and “Twilight” to classic young people’s literature and folk tales. Preparing for it gets young people reading as many books as they can. The teams of four — and a school can field as many as four teams — are given points to start with and points are deducted for every wrong answer. The team with the most points left at the end advances.

Now back to Will, who is the director of the Lee Academy, a rural school with campuses in Lynden, in Hamilton and Sheffield. Alison’s father is the renowned literature scholar Alvin Lee, former president of McMaster University.

Kids Lit Quiz teams from Lee Academy, this small school right in our midst, won the Canadian championsh­ip in 2017 and 2018. Quite a remarkable achievemen­t. It meant that they got to go to the worlds. And that was something remarkably special, said Will.

“Kids who love reading never had a big event like they do in sports or dance” at which they can shine and participat­e with others who share their passion until Kids Lit Quiz, said Will.

“To be in an auditorium full of young people all of whom love to read is the most wonderful experience,” she said. And she knows because she has been with Lee Academy teams at world finals in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2018 and, closer to home, in Oakville, when Canada hosted its first Kids Lit Quiz finals in 2017.

Her team came fourth out of four in 2017, but did better the next year, placing fifth out of 10. But to make it to the worlds and the experience itself far eclipse any aspect of the results.

Last year and this, Will and a dedicated group of Kids Lit Quiz supporters, like Despina Daikos, have been helping refortify the amazing tradition started by Mills after a relative lull during the pandemic. They’ve been encouragin­g team formations and spreading the word, and interest is coming back stronger than ever.

Mills is still travelling all over the world, making appearance­s at various heats, asking the questions. He is a voracious reader and still creates all the questions himself.

This week, there will be young people from across Canada competing in heats at the Hamilton Public Library, main branch, on Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Heats are also happening in Toronto this week. At McMaster University on Friday, the national final takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more informatio­n, contact Daikos at kidslitqui­

 ?? METROLAND FILE PHOTO ?? Toronto students Madison Zacharias, left, and Lauren Jackson take part in the 2014 Kids Lit Quiz. This year, the national finals are being held at McMaster University on Friday.
METROLAND FILE PHOTO Toronto students Madison Zacharias, left, and Lauren Jackson take part in the 2014 Kids Lit Quiz. This year, the national finals are being held at McMaster University on Friday.

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