Battle of the Books motivates young Midcoast readers


Midcoast students have come together for Battle of the Books 2019. Contribution / Woolwich Central School

For months, the competitors trained in combat. They spent hours at home and trained with their teams at school. Some of them even skipped recess.

On Thursday evening, the most engaged young readers from Midcoast elementary schools will gather at Woolwich Central School to compete in the 25th annual Battle of the Books, a game show-style reading contest.

“It’s a celebration of reading in the form of a fun quiz,” said Woolwich Central School librarian Abigail Luchies, one of the organizers of the event. “We love it because it’s a way to build excitement around reading.”

Twenty-two teams of up to four fourth, fifth and sixth graders from RSU 1, West Bath School and Georgetown Central School elementary schools will aim to correctly answer 40 questions about books on the Maine Student Book Award reading list 2021-2022, according to Luchies. In order to win the competition, teams will need to flex their knowledge on everything from non-fiction to fantasy.

“It’s all different genres of genres,” Woolwich fifth-grade student Lilian Newman said of the playlist. “It just helps me get out of my comfort zone when it comes to reading.”

Newman, who read about 17 of the 32 books in the competition, said she prefers realistic fiction. Yet to ensure that a member of her team read every book, she had to expand her reach to include genres like science fiction.

Battle of the Books is an especially valuable opportunity for non-athletes, who often miss the chance to compete on a team, said Susie Morissette, integrated reading specialist at Georgetown Central School.

“Not all kids are sports oriented,” said Morissette, who helped organize the event. “I think it’s a very good activity for all children because they are all on an equal footing. Everyone has the opportunity to read all these books.

The six Georgetown readers began discussing the reading list and asking questions in December, according to Morissette. While students can sometimes be reluctant to give up lunch with their friends in the cafeteria, she says, they’re still excited when things get competitive at once-a-week team meetings.

“It’s so fun to watch them get worked up,” Morisette said. “They almost can’t contain themselves when we train. They just shout answers.

Thursday’s event, which runs from 6-8 p.m., will mark the competition’s return to an in-person format after the pandemic shuttered the 2020 edition and pushed the 2021 battle online. Organizers eagerly await the hushed frenzy of students huddled together to find their answers.

“We weren’t able to do those things,” Luchies said. “Getting the community back into the building hasn’t happened often, and when it does, it’s really special.”

Event champions will win $10 gift certificates to Bath’s Mockingbird Bookshop, but no one will walk away empty-handed; all other contestants will earn $5 certificates.

“Every child is a winner,” Luchies said. “I hope they go and buy next year’s books.”

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