On Saturday, March 29 the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge championships were held in Orlando, FL at the Orlando Public Library. I was thrilled to attend this event as YALSA Vice-President. I got to share the stage with Jimmy “the Mouth of the South” Hart, former manager to Hulk Hogan and also the Hart Foundation. This event is the culmination of a program that began back in Teen Read Week 2007. At that time teens were challenged to read a book or magazine a week for 10 weeks. They could then submit an essay. Ten regional finalists had their essays chosen as the best, and it was those ten teens who were competing in Orlando. Five teens in grades 7-8 read Terry Trueman’s novel Stuck in Neutral, while five teens in grades 9-12 read Matt de la Pena’s novel Ball Don’t Lie. Both authors were there to serve as judges during the championship, which was set up like a quiz show. I’m happy to say that while the teens were incredibly excited and thrilled to meet the professional wrestlers at the event, they were also excited and thrilled to meet these authors. In fact, one teen told me that to meet Matt de la Pena and actually get to talk to him about his novel and find out if things she thought about the novel were what he intended was an amazing experience for her. How’s that for a great testimonial to what a great program this is?

The wrestlers at the event were the Miz, Matt Striker, and CM Punk, and they asked the questions about the books. You didn’t have to be a wrestling fan to appreciate the showmanship and stage presence they had. They really made the event a lot of fun and definitely brought a lot of noise to the library. Backstage I appreciated how genuinely nice they were to all the kids. It was definitely clear that although just two teens would ultimately win the ringside seats to Wrestlemania XXIV, every one of the ten teens who had made it that far was a winner.

It was a close win in the grades 9-12 category, but ultimately Ajoura Gwinn was the winner; in the grades 7-8 category David Silva won.

Thanks to everyone at the Orlando Public Library who helped prepare for this event. It was a great morning and a great YALSA collaboration!

Sarah Debraski

YALSA Vice-President

About Sarah Debraski

YALSA President, 2008-2009

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