MOUNT VERNON - The books have been read, the buzzers are ready, and the teams are in
place for the return of the newly revived “Battle of the Books”
community team competition today at 6:00 p.m., at the Mount
Vernon Memorial Theater, 112 E. High Street.
Battle of the Books was originally
started and sponsored by the Mount Vernon City School System and St.
Vincent de Paul School in 1993 as a friendly competition between teams
of fifth graders who love to read. In its heyday before it was cut due
to school budget constraints in 2012, the program flourished as parents,
teams and supporters filled auditoriums for the popular competition and
cheered on their favorite teams and contenders in good-natured
Program leaders Marilyn Chidester, Mount
Vernon City Schools retiree, and Sharon Tharp, St. Vincent de Paul,
wanted to revive Battle of the Books with a goal of opening the program
to all fifth graders from schools throughout the Knox County area and
homeschoolers. The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, like
many other public libraries across the country, agreed to serve as
annual sponsor for the Battle of the Books program with the support of
area businesses and organizations including the Friends of the Library.
At this first competition, teams from
Centerburg, Danville, Columbia Elementary¸ St. Vincent and East
Elementary will face off with each other to correctly answer questions
pulled from over 80 books on the Battle of the Books reading list.
Unfortunately Fredericktown had students interested but did not have a
coach, and a few teams from other elementary schools had to pull out
late, but Chidester said she has received support from area school board
members and superintendents, and hopes to see more school teams and
team sponsors sign up for next year’s competition.
The reading list for Battle of the Books is compiled
by librarians and includes all fiction genres—historical, classics, New
York Times bestsellers—books that are well-written, possibly award
winners, from a variety of authors.
“Yes, B.O.B. (Battle of the Books) is a
very competitive event, but then kids often like to challenge others as
well as themselves,” Chidester and Tharp explained. “It is exciting to
see if you can make it ‘at the plate’ …and it helps kids to strengthen
memory and think about the story…the strength of fiction is that it puts
kids inside the story. ”
The duo finds that in addition to helping
students learn empathy, discover ways characters overcome obstacles,
look in to the future, or even understand history in a way a textbook
cannot, the program encourages participants to become lifelong readers
and share their excitement with their families, siblings, classmates and
friends. It encourages teamwork and community team spirit. Many of the
contenders from the past are now adults who read or have children who
read and are excited to see the return of the program.
“I cried when I didn’t make the first
team at my school, but I read and studied harder until I made it on the
second team that year,” said one adult at a local restaurant who
competed as a fifth grader more than a decade ago when she heard the
program was being revived. She said before the program she never read
many books, but after the program, and even now, she continues to be an
avid reader and still takes pride in making the team.
Families and spectators are welcome to
join in cheering for the teams and their coaches. The group is
particularly hoping students or families of students in third and fourth
grade this year will attend the competition as spectators and then
encourage students to try out for a team as fifth graders in the future.
Anyone interested in learning more about
the event or the Battle of the Books program can contact Debbie Baker,
head of Youth Services at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox
County, at 740-392-BOOK (2665) Ext. 257 or visit www.knox.net.
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