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Midvale Journal

Rachel & Friends conquer Dragons in friendly book battle

May 16, 2018 09:48AM ● By Julie Slama

Butler Middle School students prepare for Canyons School District’s inaugural Battle of the Books competition. (Brenda Anderson/Midvale Middle School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale Middle School recently was host of the Canyons School District’s inaugural America’s Battle of the Books competition, which featured two teams from six of the district’s middle school teams. 

Midvale and Draper Park were unable to compete because of scheduling conflicts, said Midvale Middle librarian Brenda Anderson, who coordinated the April 13 event in six different locations at the school. 

“I love the energy and the fact students are reading books of all different genres,” Anderson said. “It’s an activity where students work together and have fun at the same time.” 

Battle of the Books is a reading incentive program for students who have created teams to read books and come together to demonstrate their abilities and to test their knowledge of the books they have read. 

Canyons School District Library Media Specialist Jim Wilson said that they started talking about bringing the program district-wide about one year ago.

“There was enough positive talk and contributions from the schools that have held their own competitions, that we felt this would benefit our students district-wide,” he said. “There are some elementary schools that also hold their own contest, so this would lead them up to this competition.” 

Wilson said about 500 middle school students prepared for the competition by reading from a set book list.

“There is so much emphasis in academic reading that it has taken the joy out of reading, so this is an exciting way to see students be able to dig into a story they may not have chosen otherwise and understand it,” he said. 

Much of the coordination was put in the hands of Eastmont’s teacher and librarian Sonya Miles, who has overseen her own school’s competition for three years and is a supporter of the program. She wrote and received a $357 Donors Choose grant to help get the program started.

“I really believe this helps students read more books and the exposure to more books, improves their reading strategies and their education,” she said.

Miles and other district librarians met to review the book list and changed a few to allow for more genres to be read, which resulted in librarians creating their own questions. The questions, posed to the students in a Family Feud game-style, asked students to answer the question with the title of the book before receiving additional points with the author’s name.

Miles said Battle of the Books is more than just the competition.

“One of my favorite things is to see the students check out books that they never would normally read and to see them really enjoy them. With greater exposure to literature, they’re expanding their selection of reading,” she said. 

At Eastmont, students have the support of faculty, some who even participated on their own teams, and participate as part of their English honors classes. The school had 300 students participate on 62 student teams, which had to compete for two entries into the district-wide Battle of the Books. The Magical Mages won the school competition and their second-place team, Rachel & Friends, advanced to the district.

At district, the two teams met up with Mt. Jordan’s teams, who has had the program for six years at their school, as well as teams from Albion, Butler, Indian Hills and Union.

“Battle of the Books goes along with intramurals, chess and debate as a way for our students to showcase their talents,” said Mt. Jordan librarian and coach, Kim Mitchell, who held a school competition between the nine school teams before the district-wide tournament. “It’s also a lot of fun for the students.”

Besides creative names, students made signs or wore matching clothes. Mt. Jordan’s Dragons came with silkscreened shirts and the school’s Kick’n Chickens, brought their own (stuffed) mascot.

While most teams divided the book list into a sizeable number to read, Mitchell said some of her team members read every book. 

“They thought it was more likely that they could answer the questions if more than one team member had read the book,” she said.

Every team competed in the first three rounds, then, the field narrowed between the two veteran schools. Before the final round, there was a sudden death tie-breaker between Rachel & Friends and Kick’n Chickens.

“It was very close and intense. These students seem to thrive on it,” Mitchell said.

When Rachel & Friends edged out Kick’n Chickens, they met the Chickens’ classmates, the Dragons, in the final round.

In the end, Eastmont’s Rachel & Friends pulled ahead with Mt. Jordan’s Dragons finishing in second place. Mt. Jordan’s Kick’n Chickens placed in third ahead of Eastmont’s Magical Mages. 

Students received books as prizes. Rachel & Friends received “Grimm Fairy Tales,” the Dragons got “Chronicles of Narnia,” and Kick’n Chickens, “The Book Thief.” 

Eastmont Middle School seventh-grader Avery Williams loves to read so when the opportunity came for her to compete with her America’s Battle of the Books team, she was excited.

“It sounded like fun,” she said. “I liked reading the books and hanging out with my friends on the team.”