Can you imagine being required to read 27 books, from 80 to 500 pages each, in 156 days? Well, twelve students from Cane Creek Middle School have chosen to do just that through the “Battle of the Books” program. Battle of the Books is a reading club and competition for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The group meets September through March every morning during school and after school on Tuesdays. The purpose of this program is to encourage reading by all students at the middle school level.
The Battle of the Books began in the 1940s through a Chicago public radio program hosted by Ruth Harshaw. In the years that followed, librarians who were familiar the original show remodeled and updated the contest. Michael Leonard introduced the program to North Carolina when he took the position of children’s librarian for the Onslow County Public Library. In 1981, the Onslow County Library sponsored the first North Carolina Battle of the Books Contest for sixth graders. The North Carolina Association of School Librarians took over sponsorship of Battle of the Books in 1991. In 2000, the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) became a co-sponsor of Battle of the Books, and independent schools became eligible for the competition. The first state level competition of Battle of the Books was held in 2001-2002. NCSLMA provides certificates for the battles and also coordinates the program statewide.
I interviewed seventh grader Kinsley Frady to get more information about the club. Kinsley said “Reading takes a lot of time, but it’s fun!” She also told me that she plans on joining the club again next year in eighth grade and that the club can be easy but is mostly challenging. Everyone tries to read the entire book list. Once the students are done reading the books, they will reread them over and over again as their time allows.
I also interviewed Mrs. Crenshaw, a librarian at Cane Creek and one of the coaches for Battle of the Books. Mrs. Crenshaw told me that the competitions are kind of like a game of “Jeopardy” in which students may have to remember small details from the books as well as other things. The students have to answer questions about the books and be able to name the books and authors. Mrs. Crenshaw said, “Battle of the Books doesn’t just encourage reading, but helps get kids together to read and bond.” Participating students must be finished reading by the end of each February, when competitions against nine other schools begin.
Cane Creek Middle School won first place in the Buncombe County 18th Annual District Battle of the Books competition, held on February 3. Having won the last competition, Cane Creek Middle School was eligible to attend the regional competition at Brevard Wesleyan Church on March 23.
So, if you’re in middle school and you want to join a club and are deeply devoted to reading, ask your school librarians about Battle of the Books. Over the summer the reading list is available online at BattleoftheBooks.org. Battle of the Books is in all the middle schools and intermediate schools in Buncombe County and is also statewide in North Carolina.
Book List 2011-2012
1 A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
2 Al Capone Does My Shirts by Jennifer Choldenko
3 Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
4 Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar
5 Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
6 Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
7 Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
8 Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Any Schlitz
9 Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
10 Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
11 Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery
12 Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
13 Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
14 My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen
15 One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
16 Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway
17 Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper
18 Tangerine by Edward Bloor
19 The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
20 The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
21 The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
22 The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier
23 The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
24 The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
25 The Roar by Emma Clayton
26 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
27 Treasure Island (Unabridged) by Robert Lewis Stevenson