Battle of the Books the bomb
Reading contest gets crowd going
The buzz of competitive anticipation could be heard — felt, really — long before entering the gym at Miller Comprehensive High School on Tuesday afternoon.
Anyone expecting to see sports teams warming up would have been surprised to instead see blue mats covering the floor with more than 100 plastic tables arranged in semi-circular fashion around the gym.
In front of fans who had packed the bleachers, 471 students from Grades 5 to 8, comprising 121 teams from 23 elementary schools, competed in the Battle of the Books city finals.
“Sports are often celebrated within schools, but quieter activities like reading or the arts aren’t necessarily celebrated,” said Jamie Forrest, a teacher-librarian at École St. Mary.
“(But) the gym was packed and loud and the cheering was awesome. Their faces were just ecstatic.”
Forrest had practised and read with kids from the school since January, during the lead-up to the event. One of her teams came in third place.
Over an hour, teams of four answered questions about the characters, plot, settings and themes of eight different books. Teams were awarded three points for getting the book’s title right and one point for the correct author. The questions were read out over a microphone and all teams had the same amount of time to write their answer — while the Jeopardy theme music played — on a whiteboard before revealing the answer to their designated judge.
After 25 questions, two teams were tied for the lead with 88 points, starting a tiebreaker. Neither the Warriors from St. Dominic or the Book Bombs from St. Gabriel were able to answer the first overtime question correctly. Both teams got the second question right and it was decided to have both teams tie for first place, the first time that’s happened in the competition’s seven-year history. When the ruling was announced, the gym exploded in applause and cheers.
“It was amazing. It’s been a long time,” said Kiera Hamel, a Grade 8 student from St. Gabriel on the winning team.
She has been involved in Battle of the Books since Grade 5, but had never made it to the city final until Tuesday. Hamel said it was a little scary having people watch the competition, but she could occasionally hear her friends cheering from the crowd.
The St. Dominic team shyly declined to comment for this story.
Joanne Beltramini, Regina Catholic School Division’s co-ordinator of information and library services, said the event’s growth from seven years ago shows that reading is alive and well.
Some schools have even started hosting junior versions of Battle of the Books with students from Grades 3 and 4.
“You throw in a little friendly competition and they’re there,” Beltramini said. “It says ‘Hey, reading can be exciting.’ It’s not something that’s passive, that you have to do by yourself and never talk about; it can generate interest.”