Competing for bookworm bragging rights, Anoka-Hennepin middle school students compete in a Battle of the Books, devouring hundreds of pages of the written word, memorizing character traits, story lines, plot twists and subtle innuendos.
Questions about those books are then posed to team members who have 30 seconds to provide the correct response.
It’s a trivial pursuit of the bookish type.
And these young bookworms retain knowledge of even the most intangible, idealistic, idiosyncratic type.
After a hotly-contested districtwide battle staged at Oak View Middle School April 10, one of the home teams, Carjoseta, emerged victorious.
Team members Carly Reller, Josie Berg and Greta Wiederhold (all seventh-graders), engaged in a little word play themselves, combining portions of their first names to create the name Carjoseta.
“We like words – that’s why we like to read – so we played with words to name our team,” said Weiderhold.
In fact, each member of the 23 Battle of the Books teams must have a liking for words, since in order to compete 25 books had to be read.
That’s right, beginning last October, 25 books were read – 20 of them Maude Hart Lovelace award winners plus five additional books chosen by teachers. Then, teams are formed and middle schools stage competitions in each building to determine which teams advance to the championship round.
Twenty-three teams representing each of Anoka-Hennepin School District’s seven middle schools (Coon Rapids, Jackson, Northdale, Oak View, Roosevelt, and two campuses of Anoka Middle School for the Arts) competed April 10 on the Battle of the Books battleground at Oak View.
The battle – in its third year districtwide – is the brainchild of Julie Scullen, teaching and learning specialist for secondary reading in District 11.
“It’s really become part of district culture,” Scullen said. “The students have such ownership, such energy and such determination. It’s really quite competitive.”
The Battle of the Books teacher coordinator team includes Jodi Blair of Roosevelt Middle School, Gretchen Wibben of Coon Rapids Middle School, Betsy Nordin of Oak View Middle School and Michelle Canto of Northdale Middle School.
“It’s so nice to see this energy and excitement for competition with books,” said Wibben. “The kids really get in to it.”
Nordin said once the idea was delivered to form a team, Oak View students stepped right up.
“We just kind of threw the idea out there and kids came from everywhere wanting to see the book list, checking out books, reading, reading, reading,” Nordin said.
A Coon Rapids Middle School team won the Battle of the Books the first year of the competition. Year two had a Roosevelt team winning the championship. And this year, Oak View’s Carjoseta took home top honors.
But Scullen said all students are winners.
“Every building deserves that trophy because of how exceptional you are, how much preparation you did, how hard you worked. You are all great,” she told the students. “
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]