“Rockin’ Readers” Conquer the Battle of the Books

The+winning+Johnson+Middle+School+battle+of+the+books+team+poses+with+their+medals.+%2F+picture+by+Brenna+Manning

The winning Johnson Middle School battle of the books team poses with their medals. / picture by Brenna Manning

Kayla Frost

The "Rockin' Readers" team celebrate their First Place finish in the Johnson Middle School's Battle of the Books  (Photo/ Brenna Manning).
The “Rockin’ Readers” team celebrate their First Place finish in the Johnson Middle School’s Battle of the Books (Photo/ Brenna Manning).

 A test of students’ literary knowledge and love for reading, the Battle of the Books is a competition that both Johnson and Bird Middle Schools have participated in since 2009.  Each year, students organize teams for the competition early on in the school year. Since the summer of 2014, students at both Johnson and Bird Middle School had been reading from a list of 25 books in order to prepare for their school’s Battle of the Books tournament on Thursday, May 14. During the week of June 15, the winning teams from each school face off against each other.

According to JMS reading specialist Alison O’Hara, the Battle of the Books is fun but also has important educational values.

“Kids who don’t read, read more if they are on a team,” said Mrs. O’Hara.

Throughout the year, participants added on to their academic duties to study their books and used practice questions to prepare for the big event throughout the time leading up to the battle.

On May 14, teachers then asked teams a series of questions regarding the 25 books they read, and the teams answered with the correct title of the book to receive points. If the team also submitted the correct author of the corresponding book, they gained bonus points.

For example, one teacher asked, “In which book is a young girl forced to choose between her birth mother and her foster family?” and the first team that answered with “One For the Murphys” received the points.  The team got bonus points if they knew the author’s name: Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

At the start of the day, three teams battled in a classroom, and the team with the most points moved on to the next round. The three teams with the most points by the end of the preliminary rounds moved on to the final battle in the auditorium.

Battle of the Books was not mandatory for students; however, the entire school gathered in the auditorium to watch the final battle, so that non-participant students are able to cheer on their peers.

“It’s just awesome to see your friends on stage,” said seventh grader Matthew O’Malley.

At Johnson, the Rockin’ Readers were the 2015 Champions, a team of five seventh graders: Jillian Schmottlach, Emme DeVito, Sabrina Mann, Jessica Khera, and Lindsay Navick (who read all twenty five books). Despite a rough start with a few losses in the early rounds, they succeeded in the final battle to take the JMS Championship Title.  The Johnson winners take a trip to Fisher Elementary School and Elm Street Elementary School to help introduce the program to young readers.

The unique Battle of the Books program allowed for students to express their interests in reading beyond the classroom, while they also gained recognition in a positive manner for their academic achievements.

“The battle is kind of intense,” said seventh grade participant Rachel Soule, “but fun too because you are with your friends and classmates.”1