Nearly 200 students in fourth through sixth grades from more than 30 schools throughout the county will test their knowledge April 30 at the 13th annual Battle of the Books in the Santa Barbara County Education Office auditorium.
About 8,000 students in public schools countywide have been challenged to read as many books as possible from a pre-selected list of 30 to qualify for the event. These books will be the source of the questions and challenges that the students will face at the “battle.”
Students are encouraged to read all 30 books, but they must read at least 15 to attend the Battle of the Books. Each school can send a maximum of five students.
This year, a partnership with Granada Books, a new community bookstore in downtown Santa Barbara, has given students an added incentive: Participating students can earn certificates for free books to keep.
“This annual competition is an entertaining opportunity for students from throughout the county to come together for a friendly ‘literary battle,’ but it’s also an important reading incentive program,” said county Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the event.
Granada Books will offer a free book for every five books a student reads, with certification from a teacher, up to the entire 30 on the official list. That means each child could earn up to six free books.
“This is a win-win opportunity for Granada Books and our sister nonprofit, Pomegranate Arts, to give back,” said Emmett McDonough, co-owner of Granada Books. “One of our core beliefs is that by providing children with an opportunity to earn their own books to keep, we help encourage more reading, as well as the love of books.”
Many schools will have more than five children who have read multiple books, so the bookstore’s owners will offer the same incentive to students who are not chosen to attend the “battle.” South County children and parents can redeem their certificates at Granada Books, and North County families will be able to redeem theirs at a temporary “store” that Granada will set up in Santa Maria after the event.
In addition to encouraging literacy and making reading fun, the Battle of the Books rewards reading comprehension and teamwork. Two teams of six or seven students compete against each other by answering 20 comprehension questions based on the 30 books. The students must agree upon and offer their answers as a group.
All teams will compete in a round-robin tournament of four battles, and then the highest-scoring teams will take the stage for the final battle, facilitated by guest author Robin Mellom.
“When they arrive for the Battle of the Books, the students will be re-blended into teams so that no one school competes against another,” said Matt Zuchowicz, director of Educational Technology Services, the SBCEO department that conducts the event. “Regardless of who wins the final battle, every student is rewarded with certificates, and the winners receive books and T shirts. Students also have an opportunity that day to vote for a book they’d like to see on the list for next year’s event, which is a fun way to motivate and engage the young readers.”
— Dave Bemis is the communications director for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.