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The First Annual Literacy Celebration
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Hokkaido International School presents...our first annual literacy celebration. Honor 16 defenders of reading and 18 creative short story writers.


The First Annual Literacy Celebration

The 9th Annual HIS Reads Finals and the 2nd HIS Writes Short Story Competition

J. Pangier


Just nine long years ago, after the wind and snow of Hokkaido returned to my life, I was granted the opportunity to make something (nearly) just as special to me: HIS Reads. 

Canadian headmaster at the time, Barry Ratzliff, asked me to create a book defense program modeled after something from his home country: Canada Reads. While Canada Reads is a nationally broadcast competition, I would like to think that HIS Reads has taken steps to become just as big, and certainly just as important. Not only that, but each year, the quality of book defenses improves. This year, for the first time in its history, it truly was anyone's competition. The finals were touted to be history-making, with three former champions still in school, and history was certainly made starting before the finals even began.

HIS Reads Finalists

During the qualifiers this year, Miyako gave a dominating performance, only to be ruled co-finalist by the judges. But their decision was understandable (and okayed by me) for Miyako was competing against the 2021-2022 champion Julie Meij. Miyako and Julie joined the other former champion, Hana Katayama—who is still the only middle schooler to win HIS Reads, and she did it back in 2018 as a 7th-grader. In the end, all three were given top seeds; Miyako was honored with the #1 spot, Hana at #2, and Julie third.

June 2nd, the day of the finals, sickness knocked out one of the former champions, leaving Miyako and Hana to compete for their second championship. But the contest would come with many surprises, showing how talent has been rising across the competition through the past nine years. 

Sickness got in the way of Julie's chances. Miyako was knocked out by last year's Final Four finalist Theo. And, Hana moved into the Great 8, only to just barely miss advancing when the judges gave the nod to 8th-grade Jiwoo Kim, who had come in second in last year's finals. But in the end, a new champion would arise, as the judges awarded 11th-grade Juri Tanaka with the victory. Once again, Jiwoo Kim came in second, missing out on the chance to become the second middle schooler victor, and Theo once more got knocked out in the Final Four along with Ji You Kim. 

The competition came with some thrilling defenses that can be seen in the video below.

[insert video]

Strewn throughout the finals were announcements for the finalists of HIS Writes, which was the second year for us to honor our students' creativity through short stories. This year, seven finalists were selected and three of the seven walked away with medal recognition. But the story that wowed the seven judges, many of whom have publications under their belt, was a quaint but touching story titled "All the Small Wishes." The winning story was written by Ji You Kim (also Final Four in HIS Reads), Oto Ueda, Josiah Lee, and Jeremy Cheng, and these four middle schoolers did a startlingly amazing job capturing the emotions of an aging grandmother who continues to appreciate all the small wishes for her life. 

Please read their story, which will be posted on our new HIS Writes webpage, coming for the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

A couple of weeks following our first annual literacy celebration, two new plaques were unveiled, honoring the historic champions of both literacy competitions. On the day before graduation, I called forward nine individuals to honor them for their accomplishments.

HIS Reads and Writes new Champions Plaque

2018 HIS Reads Champion: Hana Katayama

2021 HIS Reads Champion: Julie Meij

2022 HIS Reads Champion: Miyako Cammack

2023 HIS Reads Champion: Juri Tanaka

2022 HIS Writes Champion for their story "Pen Pal": Hana Katayama and Aina Nishi-Strong


2023 HIS Writes Champion for their story "All the Small Wishes": Ji You Kim, Oto Ueda, Josiah Lee, and Jeremy Cheng.

The next time you walk into HIS, please take a moment to honor them with your attention as you read their names etched into history. The plaques will be hung just inside the school genkan. And then, once you breathe in the smell of past victory, begin to let your anticipation build for 2024, where we celebrate 10 years—a whole decade—of defending reading. 

  • Creative Expression
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10:00am〜2:00pm Hokkaido International School 1st & 4th Floors

Please enjoy these International flavors and experiences with your family and friends.

※Proceeds from this event will go into the PTA fund.

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Join us for a Heartfulness Workshop December 4th with Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu. Mr. Murphy-Shigematsu is a psychologist and author in mental health, wellbeing, and diversity. He has been teaching and researching at Stanford University for 20 years as a faculty of the School of Medicine. You can learn more about Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu through his TED talks.



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