‘Battle of the Books’ at hand

BLUE EARTH – An intellectual clash will take place Tuesday at Blue Earth Area Middle School.

Battle of the Books begins at 3:30 p.m. It is open to the public and will feature 13 teams of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders answering questions until only one team is left standing.

“Literature can be a powerful thing,” said Jennie Esser, who leads the program with Jenn Berkner. Both teach language arts.

Some students have been preparing for the showdown since school began in the fall. That’s when a list of 10 books was released and the kids could start reading.

“That should ensure them enough time to get the books read,” Esser said. “It also gives them time to form their team.”

Team partners are picked in December.

Different teams employ different strategies, Esser noted.

“Some kids who have finished the books are on their second round reading them,” she said.

Others take the divide-and-conquer approach.

“One person reads five books and the other reads the other five and they discuss them,” Esser said.

America’s Battle of the Books compiles numerous lists for different grade levels and abilities, including lists for high schools and an elite list.

“Ours is sixth through eighth, so they will vary from fifth- to ninth-grade level books,” she said.

The list also kicks the students out of their comfort zone.

“The books chosen for the list are all different genres,” said Esser, adding that some kids prefer to read only one type of book. “It opens the door to all those different genres they may have not known existed.”

Last year was the first time Blue Earth Area participated in Battle of the Books.

“The way we played it last year was we had 10 rounds,” Esser said.

In the first round, each team was asked 10 questions; each question was worth a point, so they had the opportunity to score 10 points. A wrong answer earned no points.

Originally, the idea was the top five teams would advance, but there was a tie, so the top seven advanced.

The next round began the elimination rounds.

“From what I understand, the questions get harder as the rounds go,” Esser said. “Most of the questions are knowledge questions based off what you read in the book.”

Last year’s competition was won by twins Lindsey and Kaylor Jacobs. Since the Jacobs girls are now in high school, a new champion will be crowned this year.

Esser has 26 students signed up, but that number could grow.

The students will be vying for trophies, $50 gift cards, and small items such as erasers, pencils, bookmarks and posters.

There are national competitions for Battle of the Books, but Esser said there are not enough schools in the area to host a regional competition, so Blue Earth Area kids will not be advancing.

She still believes it does them a lot of good.

“I’m a believer some kids need some sort of incentive to read, which is OK,” Esser said. “Turning this whole reading thing into a competition gives the reluctant readers a purpose for reading. I think it does give kids a responsibility to set a goal and reach that goal, since they are given a timeline from start to finish.”