Bat­tle of the Books mo­ti­vates teens to use their wits and words

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Society Scene - Palm Beach - - Scene & Be Seen -

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

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