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The City Journals

Elementary Students Battle over Books

May 05, 2016 03:35PM ● By Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

South Valley - Kate Ashton is not a fan of reading, but the Battle of the Books competition at Butterfield Canyon Elementary School got her to crack open some books.

“Sure, some of the books we listened to on audio tape, and some of the books she just struggled through, but by the end of it she felt empowered to read, and that’s amazing,” Crystal Ashton, Kate’s mom, said.

Kate and the other third through sixth graders at her school were given a list of books to study from beginning in the fall. Teachers divided students into teams of four, where they divvied out which books from the list each team member would read. If each student did their part, they would be well prepared for the “battle” come the third week of March, Becky Holdorf, media specialist, said.

In the battle week, two teams compete at a time, answering trivia questions about the books on the list in a “Family Feud” style game. If one team answers a question wrong, the other team has a chance to answer and steal the points associated with that question. The teams compete in a bracket tournament until there are two teams remaining from each grade division. 

Holdorf said the competition increased the amount the students read. Third- through sixth-grade students at the school read more than 300,000 pages while preparing for the battle. 

“My favorite part is not necessarily the competition but it is that kids will come to me and say that they found a new genre of book that they like that they wouldn’t have tried without the competition,” Holdorf said. “It helps them widen the kinds of books that they like.” 

Teacher Kasey Chamber said she loves the team spirit that comes from the competition. Teams create their own team names, costumes and chants during the six months leading up to the competition. 

“The competitions are fun, but it’s still hard for some,” Chamber said. “There’s tears because they get so into it.” 

All third- through sixth-grade students were invited to watch the final battle as the top two teams from third and fourth grade and the top two teams from fifth and sixth grade competed in an assembly on March 18. At the assembly, students who had great sportsmanship and team spirit through the Battle of the Books six-month program were awarded free passes to Momentum Climbing and Funtopia in Lehi and other prizes. 

The Black Knights and the Minion Ninjas dueled it out for first place in the third- and fourth-grade division. The Minion Ninjas stole a question from the Black Knights and got the right answer, sending them to first place in the end. Both teams received glass trophies shaped like a pyramid. 

Afterward, the Grammar Goofs and the BOB Destroyers took the stage for the final competition in the fifth- and sixth-grade division. The BOB Destroyers answered each of their initial questions correctly, and stole the title as Battle of the Books champions. 

“I just feel so proud of where I got to,” Sam Weller, spokesman of the Grammar Goofs, said. “It’s just so fun.” 

Sam said he personally read all 20 books on the list to help him prepare for the competition. 

“It’s nice because it is really like his time to shine,” Becky Weller, Sam’s mother, said. “He’s not athletic, so this gives him an opportunity to compete at something he really enjoys.” 

Battle of the Books is a nationwide program that sponsors early literacy, and Butterfield Canyon has been participating for two years, Holdorf said. While the program is big in the Alpine School District, Butterfield Canyon is one of the first schools in the Jordan School District to adopt it. 

Ashlie Butterfield, mother of Butterfield Canyon students, brought the program to Butterflied Canyon’s attention after she and her family moved from the Alpine School District. She puts her time and money toward the program’s success at Butterfield Canyon, according to Holdorf.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Holdorf said. “Every school should implement it.”