Battling at the Library

I could write here about getting into fights at the library–with staff or patrons or dust–but although that might make for a juicy blog entry, of course I am writing here about Battle of the Books. There is enough human drama with Battle of the Books that I figured that could be pretty juicy, too!

Contrary to the website which claims ownership of Battle by slapping the word “America’s” in front of it, Battle of the Books has been around since the 1930s. It began as a radio show sponsored by Carson Pirie Scott and the Chicago Board of Education. Ever since then, kids have been reading off of a list of books and answering questions like “The spider wrote the words ‘some pig’ in her web over Wilbur’s pigpen. Name the book.”

We have been running Battles here at the Niles Public Library for 28 years, and yet it still is an amazing thing to behold as the kids come in all pumped up and ready to compete. Our list has 60 books for grades 4-6 on it, a mix of classics, great books, and a little fun fluff too. We include some nonfiction to give the list variety, though it is pretty hard to disguise the identity of some of those books in the questions. But that’s okay–we like some of the questions to be easy.

It can be painful watching the younger teams struggle. For instance, last year’s champions, Nelson School, had to start from scratch this year with a completely new team. A row of fourth graders looks really little next to some of the other teams! But excellent coaches at each of the less experienced schools help the team members to realize that as long as they do a little better each week, and answer a few more questions, remember a few more author names, they are winning. Teams build gradually. And I think it’s great to have a program where kids who read (instead of the usual athletes) are the ones who get to represent their schools and make people proud of them!

Our last meet is Wed., Dec. 13, and if anyone wants to come observe, you are welcome! We are even happy to share our questions with you…as long as you don’t have a child in a school in the Niles district. 🙂

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