Reviewed by Nancy Schuster in Roeper Review, Vol. 20, Number 4.
Competition plays an important part in learning. It can create enthusiasm and entice students to try their hardest, helping to maximize their abilities. Here is an excellent reference book for elementary and secondary students to find competitions and contests to enter. It is also a good tool for teachers and other educators, counselors, youth leaders, and parents.
Competitions: Maximizing Your Abilities has more than 100 different entries that are categorized into academic, fine and performing arts, leadership, and service learning competitions. It is further subcategorized into areas such as business, language arts, mathematics, science, and music. Each competition lists the sponsor and address, purpose, specific area of the competition, description of what is to be done or created, eligibility requirements, important dates, judging criteria, awards, and other pertinent data. For example, there are 19 different entries in the Essays area of Language Arts that offer at least one competition opportunity for any student, K-12. Economics in One Easy Lesson Essay Contest, for high school students, is an example of one entry that is listed under Essays and cross- referenced under the Economics area of Social Studies.
In addition, there is a Competitions Journal section of the book that leads students through the process of entering a competition. Through many forms and guides for students to use, the authors have created a positive way to share some of the finer points of competing. They help students examine reasons for competing, help them get organized and stay on track, and identify some courtesies they should consider. There is also a list of resources at the end that can help students hone their skills.
The authors wish to avail students of opportunities that use their skills, that challenge them in their areas of strength, and that provide some fun and excitement; similar to those afforded adults (p.6). The organizational structure and format of the book allows any student to use the book with some confidence of finding a contest or competition of interest. However, adult guidance may be needed to help students, since competitions vary from individual entry to small group requirements. The authors state that most of the competitions are free or have low entry fees. Of particular interest is the judging criteria section, since this can aid students in their choices and in self-evaluation before submitting.
There will need to be periodic editions of this book to keep it accurate and current. The authors ask their audience to communicate with them to help in this effort. In subsequent editions, it would be helpful if category headings were on the top of each page. Also, the addition of phone numbers and e-mail addresses allows for easier contact with contest sponsors. An index that cross-references the titles or sponsors of the competitions might also strengthen the book's use as a reference.
This book answers a need for a handy resource of competitions that stimulates students and supports learning. Through carefully placed quips and aphorisms, the authors have lightened and focused a potentially dry subject into readable information. It encourages students to have pride in their abilities, refine them, and reach for their potential, comparable to those of athletes. There are few similar resource books; All The Best Contests for Kids, 5th Ed. (Bergstrom, J. & Bergstrom C. Berkeley: Tricycle Press) is a commonly available one, but it does not have as many entries of an educational nature. Competitions: Maximizing Your Abilities is highly welcomed.
Permission to reprint this article was granted by the author and publisher, Roeper Review.
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