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Oswego City School District to hold Battle of the Books Event March 3

Contributed by: Kimberly Ingram

Oswego City School District has planned a district wide event called the “Battle of the Books,” with plans to use this program as reading incentive for students.

This event, which is a nationwide program, is taking place Monday, March 3, at 6 p.m. in the High School Faust Theatre.

“The goal of the Battle of the Books event is to encourage reading, and to encourage students to read books that they might not normally have chosen on their own,” according to MaryAlice Brunell, middle school librarian and the event’s district coordinator.

The third through eighth grades will be participating at this event at the Oswego City School District.

Any student who wishes to participate in the competition is welcome and each building’s librarian is the coordinator of their own students, Brunell said.

“The librarians in the district do a fabulous job of coordinating their individual building events,” Brunell said.

The school district began participating in these events about seven years ago.

“Most students are very excited to be part of this competition. It is really a great way to celebrate reading and literacy,” Brunell said.

This year there are approximately 190 students district wide participating in this event.

The school district funds the event by purchasing the books and the home and school organizations pay for the medals, according to Brunell.

Students will compete in teams of three and answer reading comprehension questions in a quiz style format, coached by either parents or teachers in their particular building.

At the end of February, events began when each elementary building has their own competition.

“The winners at each competition level, grades three and four and grades five and six, will compete in a district battle on March 3 at the Oswego High School Theatre,” Brunell said.

The middle school will then have its battle at the conclusion of the elementary district battle, and the winners of both elementary and middle schools battles will then go on to compete at the Oswego County Battle.

The county battle is coordinated by the Oswego County BOCES School Library System, and held at Mexico High School, according to Brunell.

An Oswego school district student, eighth grader, Dain Jerred, designed the new winning Battle of the Books logo and his design will be featured on the Oswego City School District battle T-shirts, Brunell said.

The concept for the Battle of the Books has been around for around 100 years.

“We began originally when my mom, Erna Wentland, started this program when she was a head librarian in New Mexico and it got nationwide attention,” Steve Wentland, volunteer and co-founder of the Battle of the Books, said.

When she retired, her son (Steve Wentland) took her place. It got very popular and expanded from an original five schools participating with 60 children, to a total of 36,000 all over the world, according to Wentland.

Today the organization’s events have been in every continent except Antarctica and Africa.

“We are hoping more states will begin to have a state wide competition so we can move toward a national competition,” Alonna Wentland, volunteer at the Battle of the Books organization, said.

The Battle of the Books program is a reading incentive program for any students in third through twelfth grades.

Students come together and read books to show one another their reading skills and to test their knowledge of the books they have read.

This program is set up in a competition style, similar to famous television games shows like Family Feud, according to Steve Wentland.

The structure and format of this competition can vary depending on the needs, preferences, and resources of the individual schools at various sites all over the country.

Funding happens differently for each school or group.

“Funding usually comes through parent groups but we hear often now about grant monies schools apply for and receive,” Alonna Wentland said.

The Battle of the Books organization itself is operated by a volunteer staff of educators and librarians.

The books that are included in this program’s reading list are based upon historical values, and dignity of life, according to Steve Wentland.

“We try to create a lot of excitement for kids and make it a fun day,” Steve Wentland said. “Kids get to socialize and meet new people all while learning; we have kids who have gone all the way from third grade to the high school program in battle of the books.”

The program grows about fifteen percent a year.

“Our goal is just to have great literature and to help students keep reading,” according to Steve Wentland. “We don’t have any agenda; we try to stay as neutral as we possibly can.”

A student participates by reading a book from a list provided for that year’s Battle of the Books.

“Our lists come out in April each year and many students begin reading for the next school year competition,” Alonna Wentland said.

The students then keep a summary of the books they have read, and review them before their particular battle.

Participating school libraries order copies of each book on the list early on in the school year for students in preparation for these battles that usually happen in either March or April, according to the organization webpage.

Each book list has 10, 12, 20, or 30 books on each list that are 50 percent on grade level of participants, 25 percent above, and 25 percent over.

A typical battle is a full-day tournament or game where students’ teams will earn points by answering questions about books from the book list, according to Steve Wentland.