War of the words
Battle of the Books promotes reading, friendly competition
As battles go, it was a quiet one.
Students tested their memories. They created book-based crafts. They even tried an escape room.
At the 2023 Warren County School District Battle of the Books, students from each of the district’s high schools gathered for fun and competition.
Students from each team had read books from a list for the competition. On Friday, Battle of the Books Coordinator Tiffany Mandeville read questions about each book. There were 13 rounds of questions with eight questions per round.
Not every student read every book, so teams depended on different members in different rounds.
They put their heads together quietly – the other teams were just a few feet away – and tried to remember what special day in Cuba was coming up, what kind of animal the obsessed girl likened herself to, and why the talking dog had to leave.
At the end of each round, students turned in their answer sheets for that book and got ready for the next.
When the results were added up, the Youngsville team – Payten Mechling, Michael Raffanello, Harlee Swearingen, Emily Hutchings-Muth, Aviva Johnson, and Alexis McDonald with Advisor Amy Engquist – was declared champion.
“The Battle of the Books competition used to be a regional competition held at Gannon University,” Mandeville said. “However, during COVID they were unable to figure out how to make it work well. So, last year when the other schools did quizzes in their own schools, we decided to make it a district competition. We brought the teams from the four high schools together at Central Office and ran the competition the way it had been run at Gannon.”
That was fine for a year, but the format changed for the district’s second effort.
“This year, I decided I wanted it to be a much more immersive experience,” she said. “Instead of the list of 24 books, we pared it down to 13.”
One of those, Bluebird, was recommended by the Robert H. Jackson Center. The center is bringing the author to town, Mandeville said.
Teams could include up to 12 members and were on their own as to how they would divide up the materials. There were about 30 student competing on Friday.
“This year instead of merely doing the book competition, they were involved in a variety of activities,” Mandeville said. “Students started the day doing a ‘Puzzle Palooza’ activity where they were split into teams and worked with kids from other schools.”
“They also got to choose stations to do book related activities including books crafts — making things from discarded books, a graffiti wall — creating a bulletin board of character quotes, and book tastings — reading portions and commenting on prospective books for future events,” she said.
In Blackout Poetry, the students could develop poetry from someone else’s prose. Looking through a page of work, the students picked out well-turned phrases and connected them into a poem.
At Keyhole Book Scenes, students created art based on their books, then put a cut-out keyhole over it — obscuring some areas, while highlighting others — showing how perspective can alter an incident or scene.
The Middle School Battle of the Books will be held on May 12.