Battle of the Books motivates teens to use their wits and words
The Delray Beach Public Library’s Battle of the Books program motivates teens to read while building community partnerships. It’s a winning program for teens fulfilling community service requirements and sustains literacy programs in Florida libraries.
Loanis Menendez-Cuesta, the young adult librarian, developed the Battle of the Books. She wanted a program that would serve the community. And at the same time, give the library’s teen volunteers a more intellectual type of service than shelving books.
The Battle of the Books is a team sport. Three books are selected by the teens, which each member reads. From each chapter, they create a list of questions about the stories.
The teams meet weekly for eight weeks. They quiz each other on their questions to build expertise. Each team has a book coach who compiles their questions into a study guide for each title.
The program culminates in Battle Day. It’s a “Jeopardy”-style game show match of wits. A panel of judges quizzes the teams about the books. Each side has a buzzer. The teen that knows the answer hits the buzzer as quickly as possible to score points.
Community service requirements factor into the program via the study guides created for the books. After the Battle of the Books, the teams’ study guides are distributed to other libraries for use in reading incentive programs.
“We have rules and expectations, but it’s a fun program,” Menendez-Cuesta said. “I give them guidelines; everything else they do themselves. That’s why it’s been successful. It’s a great experience for them to develop a program from beginning to end.”
The Battle of the Books is in its fourth year. This year’s book selection was “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky; and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.
Library volunteer Glenn Phipps served as the book coach for the winning team, Infinity. Phipps said at first the titles the teens chose didn’t interest him. But as he watched the students get charged up over their reading, he realized it’s great to see them reading new books.
On Battle Day, judge Amy Kenneth said, “The enthusiasm was contagious. There were a few times when I thought team Infinity was going to leap over the tables.”
Prizes were awarded to all team members by the program’s community sponsor, Levenger, a local company known for its “Tools for Serious Readers” catalog.
More than prizes, the teens gain experience working as a team member. Each is responsible for their contribution. They learn to meet deadlines, or their team will be at a disadvantage.
Menendez-Cuesta said, “If you empower teens to do something that they really like to do, they will make the right choices, take ownership of the program and enjoy it even more.”
Glenn Phipps, left, Berdoucha Acelouis, Laura Toledo Sanchez, Jigar Patel, Erin McCusker, Jesula Jacques and Lunise Pierre