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Valley Journals

Schools offer Battle of the Books program for love of reading

May 21, 2018 02:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Student teams read these and others on the Battle of the Books lists before battling each other. (Juile Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

In the weeks preceding Eastlake Elementary’s Battle of the Books competition, third-grader Hailee Morten had read five books but was hoping to read five more before the school’s tournament, slated for May 24–25.

“I like reading,” she said, adding that she typically will read Dr. Seuss books.

Fifth-grader Daxton Nelson admits he is not “really a reader,” but as a class requirement, he also is on a Battle of the Books team, Daxton had just finished reading “Wonder,” quite different from the books about NBA player Lebron James he typically reads. 

These two students may showcase some reasons why America’s Battle of the Books organizers promote the program in schools, as it motivates students who typically read one type of book to expand to other genres, and it also encourages those who aren’t readers to read more for the joy of it. 

“There are so many benefits from encouraging kids to branch out of genres they typically read or hopping on board to get in more reading,” said Katherine Harbaugh, who coordinated Daybreak Elementary’s first Battle of the Books in late March. “We’ve had some students who are gung-ho and have read so many books, they have improved two reading levels.” 

Daybreak chose the 20 book lists for their teams, which included books such as “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Because of Winn-Dixie” for the third- and fourth-grade list, and “A Wrinkle in Time,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek” and “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” for fifth- and sixth-graders. 

Battle of the Books is a reading incentive program for students who have created teams to read books and come together to demonstrate their abilities and to test their knowledge of the books they have read. 

While many schools have different ways to set up their own tournaments, Daybreak’s competition was double elimination, and teams were assigned to even- or odd-numbered questions for the round of 18 questions. Once a team couldn’t answer the question posed to them, the other team had a chance to answer and earn points.

The battle is presented to students to answer the question with the title of the book before receiving additional points with the author’s name. For example, if students could correctly name the title “Harry’s Mad” and author of the book, “Dick King-Smith,” to the question, “In what book was a house burglarized of its china, silver and family pet?” The team could receive 15 points.

“It tests the students’ comprehension skills as well as gives them good life lesson skills working as a team and sportsmanship — how to be good sports if they win or lose gracefully in a battle,” Harbaugh said.

At Daybreak, each class set up their own teams and asked students to read four or five books each, which were available in the school library.

In the tournament, 40 fifth- and sixth-grade teams battled each other, and likewise, 38 third- and fourth-grade teams challenged each other. The inaugural year’s team winners were from Nancy Kertamus’ fourth-grade class and the Book Slayers from Ramsay O’Connor’s sixth-grade class. The teams were going to be added to a rotating school trophy. 

Harbaugh said it wasn’t just about competition but also enjoyment as teams bonded and worked together. 

“Every team had a name they picked out and had a lot of fun with that,” she said. “They created posters too. It was good to see kids reading for the love of it, not the drudgery, but for fun.”