by First Mate Keira

I first participated in Battle of the Books in fifth grade at elementary school. It was a real big deal because it the first time it was ever done in the county and my school wanted if not to win—then to beat out a lot of schools (and this was just the kid point of view!) and make a name for ourselves for next year.

Growing up, I lived in Florida where we have Sunshine State Books. The book list for our Battle of the Books was predetermined based on that year’s Sunshine State list. There were two tournaments one for the 5th graders using the 3-5 reading list and one for the 6th graders who used the 6-8 reading list.

I remember that to qualify for the Battle of the Books you had to take Accelerated Reading tests and score 80% or better on half of the books on the list.

That year I read all the books on the Sunshine State list and passed them with 100% accuracy on the AR tests.

I applied. I was accepted and I met my teammates. Two teams were formed for each tournament with the idea that only one of each would make it to the real tournament. We would battle each other first and then other schools.

My team got together and figured out how to best approach the contest. We shared which books we had read and what books we loved and then chose books on which to become the experts and got reading packets.  Every book was covered at least twice by two readers.

I went over my packets a lot and even asked for packets to other books covered by other team members. I really wanted to win and go to the real tournament!

Our school got the actual buzzers and equipment we would have to punch in on for the real deal as part of our practice run. I remember the competition being fierce and that all the 5th grade classes were called into our lunch room where the stage was set up for the first battle against our fellow schoolmates. We won, but barely, and we knew we had to study more. The motivation to read and beat other schools was incredibly strong.

For the most part we got together after school. Usually once a week to talk to our advisor. As time got closer to the tournament we got to get out of reading time and meet up outside by the recess area to study together in twos and threes.

Studying basically consisted of quizzing each other from the packets which had some very adult type questions that broke down the book and got very nitty-gritty on details. We got to know our packets forward and backwards and all in between as we tried to stump each other, sometimes even going so far as to ask the questions in reverse by giving the answer and looking for the keywords in the question itself.

Then the day came for Battle of the Books. It was a real sweet deal. I can’t remember where we met exactly but I have a feeling it was where the school board met. Teams were isolated in their own rooms with their study packets waiting for their turn to battle. We all started off on the same foot and advanced through brackets to the final championship round.

We got there and our teams were tied. We were the best readers competing against each other and nobody dared missed a question. We ended up in a bonus tie breaker, which we won when I buzzed in and answered. I never felt more proud than I did that day!

I still have the Battle of the Books trophy. It’s displayed prominently on my shelves. Of course, now I use it as a bookend to hold all my books in place.

Do you have Battle of the Books at your school? Have you ever participated and is it anything like mine was? If not, how is yours set up?