Bexley students ready for Battle of the Books


 Messenger photo by John Matuszak

Members of the Montrose Elementary School Battle of the Books team who competed in the county-wide contest are, from left, front, Exer Thurston, Charlotte Freccia, Suzannah Stone, Miranda Lange, Adam Hirsch; and back, Diana Huefner, Gracy Trinoskey-Rice, Daisy James-Weidner, Makayla Valentine, and volunteer advisor Marilyn Myers. Their names were drawn randomly from among those who had read all 13 books on the reading list.

There’s a battle brewing in Bexley schools.

It’s a war of words, but it doesn’t have anything to do with politics or other divisive topics.

It’s the Battle of the Books, an activity in which students strengthen and share their love of reading and take part in a contest answering questions about the suggested titles.

"This is not about winning. It’s about a great activity that promotes reading," explained Marilyn Myers, a parent of a Montrose Elementary student and a Bexley librarian who volunteers on her break to advise the school’s B.O.B team.

The activity, which takes places at the three Bexley elementary schools, started as an offering for gifted students, and has expanded to include children at all reading levels.

This year, 39 Montrose fifth-graders, more than two-thirds of the class, get together during their lunch time on Fridays to talk about the books and answer questions about the plots and characters.

They are also wearing "B.O.B is back" t-shirts.

This is all in preparation for a district competition and then a county-wide contest, held Feb. 20.

During the contest between the Bexley schools, the kids learned that just knowing the answers isn’t quite good enough, Myers said. They have to be quick on the buzzer and fast in their recall of details of the books.

In the "lightning round," anyone can buzz in, and points are deducted for wrong answers.

You also have to be loud enough when you answer, discovered Charlotte Freccia, who admitted to being nervous at first about getting up on stage.

The kids said they wrote out the answers beforehand to refresh their memories and still blanked on some of the questions. But they still had fun.

The students are getting something more lasting from their participation, according to Myers. Reading scores go up for those who participate. And parents report that children who had little enthusiasm for reading discover the pleasures of the written word.

The varied reading list challenges students to branch out into genres they might not have explored, Myers said.

One parent reported that her daughter sought out other volumes in a series she started through Battle of the Books, and even emailed the author.

Reading is more fun if you have friends to talk to about the books, Suzannah offered.

Daisy James-Weidner added that participants recommend new books to each other.

The girls said their favorite book has been "Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan.

The activity fits Montrose’s best practice of creating a literacy collaborative.

"It’s a good match and a good reinforcement," said Myers, who became involved when the Battle of the Books was introduced at the school four years ago.

Montrose is looking to further extend the reach of B.O.B. through a grant from the Bexley Education Foundation to purchase books on CD so students at all reading levels can take part.

Participation in Battle of the Books is open to any school in Franklin County through the Franklin County Educational Service Center.

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