Nearly 200 students in fourth through sixth grades from more than 30 public schools will do battle starting at 9 a.m. April 15 at the ninth annual Battle of the Books at the Santa Barbara County Education Office auditorium.

“More than just another competition, Battle of the Books is a great reading incentive program,” schools Superintendent Bill Cirone said. “Each participating student must read 29 books from a pre-selected list.”

Two teams made up of six students each compete against each other by answering 20 comprehension questions based on those books. The students must agree on and offer answers as a group, which emphasizes teamwork.

“The event received such enthusiastic responses in the last eight years that this year, again, the schools were clamoring for spaces, and it filled very quickly,” said Steve Keithley, director of instructional media services, the SBCEO department that conducts the battle.

“Over 30 county public schools, ranging from Santa Maria to Carpinteria, will each send a team of five students,” he said. “Once here, the teams will be reblended so that no one school competes against another.”

Regardless of who wins the final battle, no one will go away empty-handed. Keithley and his staff will award books and have created original certificates and T-shirts as prizes.

— Wendy Shelton is director of communications for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.