DALTON, Ga. -- Austin Brock never liked to read until he became involved in his school's reading program this year.
"Now it's like, wow, I can't wait to read all these books," Brock said Wednesday while attending Whitfield County elementary schools' first reading summit held at Cedar Ridge. "Today is great because we learned different things about all the books we didn't read. I really want to read them now."
Brock, a blond, 9-year-old, fourth-grade student from Cedar Ridge Elementary, excitedly toured the tables filled with exhibits the students created about books they have read.
Seven Whitfield County elementary schools -- Cedar Ridge, Cohutta, Dawnville, New Hope Elementary, Dug Gap, East Side and Varnell -- participated in Wednesday's summit, with a total of 135 students from third, fourth, and fifth grades attending.
Amy Zock, a teacher of the gifted at Cedar Ridge, said organizers hope to make the reading summit an annual event to encourage students to share ideas and discuss the books they read.
"We are trying to teach collaboration and working together," Zock said. "Generally in gifted programs the students compete against each other. This gives them opportunities to think and create together."
Any students involved in Georgia's annual Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl could participate in the event, Zock said. Students read eight out of 18 books on the required list throughout the year.
On Wednesday, students took part in various events, including showing their projects related to books they already have read. All the students evaluated the different projects by filling out pink slips to vote on their favorite presentations.
Students divided into various classrooms to give oral presentations of one of their books, while others collaborated in challenges related to the books they had read.
In another room, librarians led students in group discussions about books.
"You have students from various schools interacting," Zock said. "It is fun to see them talking with other kids and getting ideas."
Holly Heath, a fifth-grader, said she enjoyed the spontaneous challenges the most.
Students were given a problem from one of the books and had to solve it with a solution from another book.
"It was funny," Holly said. "We had to use different parts and put it together."
Students from 13 Whitfield County schools will participate in the Reading Bowl later this year, Zock said.
Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at email@example.com or 706-980-5824.