An epic battle took place this week. No, the Olympics didn’t get an early start and LSU was not playing! It was the annual Episcopal Middle School Battle of the Books.
The battle began in the Greer Center with seven teams competing to answer questions about ten books they had recently read. After two rounds of multiple choice questions and time for a short answer round, the teams then moved to Aldrich Library where they were tasked with solving puzzles based on those same books. Everything culminated in the chapel with the final three teams answering more questions in front of the entire Middle School division.
The competition was fierce.
Students were jumping up and down. There was laughing, chanting and cheering. There was also frantic whispering as teams grappled for answers, and even a few tense, quiet moments while answers were being tallied. After five rounds of competition, Team Weaver was crowned this year’s winner.
But how did all of this get started anyway? Where else, but the library.
As you might expect Library Director Tiffany Whitehead loves books, and as a school librarian she wants to share that love with students. Thus, she took an idea from a friend in Indiana and made it her own, creating the Battle of the Books. This is the second year Whitehead has orchestrated such an event here at Episcopal, coming on the heels of planning a similar event at a previous school. While it may look easy, managing the Battle of the Books logistics is no simple feat. It takes months of planning.
Beginning this summer, Whitehead started researching potential battle books using the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice list as a guide. By September, she had invited students to form teams of at least ten members and divvy up the reading. Whitehead also identified team sponsors and ensured that everyone had copies of the assigned reading. In addition, she read as many of the books as she could. Then there was the actual heart of the event – the questions. Whitehead and her team put a lot of time and effort into researching and creating each question and each puzzle. With three rounds of twenty multiple choice questions, a host of short answer options and puzzles, this is a considerable undertaking. Once questions are established they are then entered into the software program Kahoot so that they can be answered via iPad on competition day.
Why expend so much energy and effort on a one-day competition? Whitehead says the goal is to get students excited about reading and to provide them with a team aspect that reading doesn’t typically offer. “Most of the kids who participate are already readers,” she says. “This gets them out of their reading comfort zone.” Whitehead intentionally chooses a diverse list of books for each competition. The list includes both fiction and non-fiction to push the students’ reading experience beyond their go-to genres.
The long hours of planning paid off.
In the end, Team Guarisco won the chapel round, but after all rounds of competition Team Weaver was victorious. Team Weaver summed up the competition and their feelings well with just two words – amazing and awesome. The champs already plan to team up again next year to defend their title.
Whitehead says the Battle of the Books has great momentum with nearly double the teams this year compared to last. As long as students are reading and enjoying the event, it is sure to be an Episcopal staple for years to come.
Congratulations to Tiffany and the entire Middle School division on another great Battle of the Books!
Congratulations to the winners:
First place: Team Weaver
Second place: Team Guarisco
Third place: Team Day