Battle of the Books bolsters reading for Sunset

By Emily M. Hobbs Staff writer

March 31, 2014

Through much coordination and cooperation, elementary students in Clinton City Schools had an opportunity to excel and expand their education by competing and winning the Sampson County Battle of the Books.

“This is the first year we have been able to have Battle of the Books for the fourth and fifth graders, but we have had it several years for the middle schools,” explained Lorena Locklear, Clinton City School’s instructional programs director.

Alison Ray at Sunset Avenue School is the elementary school’s media coordinator, said Locklear. Ray worked with Jessica Sawvel as co-coaches for the students after school. Locklear expressed her gratitude for their hard work and the hard work of the principal of the school, Antoine McGill.

The Battle of the Books for this year was on March 14 in the Clinton High School Auditorium. This is also the first year for the city students to participate in the competition at the elementary level.

“When I first started at Sunset Avenue six years ago, I had looked into the competition,” Ray said. “We had no county (competition) yet, and the state competition did not even start up until 2010.”

“We did our practice after school,” said Ray. “This was my first time doing this as well.” Students filled out applications to show their interest in participating in Battle of the Books. Ray has been media specialist at Sunset Avenue School for six years.

“This is a great opportunity for students to be exposed to great novels,” noted Locklear in an interview last week.

The list of books are already preselected by the program and the Battle of the Books also supplies the questions for the students. The program must be set up through the school library. Students may be asked which book has a particular theme, and they have to state the name of the book and the author as their response.

“If they give both the author and the title they get points,” explained Locklear. If the students only give the title they would only get less points.

“This is a opportunity for them to be exposed to great novels and work collaboratively,” Locklear added. “This is not a one man show, it requires teamwork.”

During the Battle of the Books, five to six students collaborate on the answer and come to a consensus. If they get it wrong the other team gets a chance to answer. If no one has the right answer, they continue on to the next question.

There are two judges, timekeepers, scorekeepers, a moderator and other help that works together during the competition. Each round in the competition includes 12 questions, with two teams of six answering. The team that goes first on a question has about 20 seconds to answers and if they don’t the question is passed on to the other team who has 10 seconds. The team that accumulates the most points by then of the rounds is the team that wins. The winner is not determined by who wins what round Ray explained.

“This competition gives the students 21st century skills making them successful with teamwork,” added Locklear. “It also gives the fifth graders exposure before they go to on to middle school.” She said that it also encourages the students to think at a higher level with questions.

Madelyn Hales, one of the students on the team, said she loves reading and loved taking part in the Battle of the Books.

“I love reading and I read every book, and I was in almost every round,” said Hales. She said that she has always liked to read and also participates in dance, volleyball and the school’s swim team.

Quinn Pollock also said that she loves reading, a reason she was part of the school team. Staying after school to work on Battle of the Books was not a bother for her.

Ray said the program just clicked together with the county program, and everything just fell into place this year.

“I have really enjoyed it,” Ray said. “I have seen the biggest impact on the students, and not just team members, but the whole school. The whole school is interested in what they are reading (for Battle of the Books).” She said that the students have really promoted their love of books, even through it only a 12 member team.

“My sisters did Battle of the Books,” said Chloe Zeng about her interest in participating, a love of reading another. “They thought it was really fun.”

Other students said that they really enjoyed exploring different books.

“My favorite books are the Harry Potter series,” added Justin Ruiz, one of the participants. He said that fantasy was his favorite genre and that he really enjoyed the competitive nature of the event.

“I went to Battle of the Books to see how other schools are with reading,” said participant Connor Johnson. The books that are on the reading list are considered high interest level books.

“I wanted to compete against other schools,” said Julian Dufour. “I liked getting answers right.”

McGill, the principal at Sunset Avenue, said that he was impressed with the students.

“I am very, very proud of all of them,” he stressed, “especially since this was the first time they competed.

“Alison Ray and Jessica Sawvel have done an excellent job,” he added. “It has really promoted reading. This has renewed interest in reading in the school and we have a lot that want to compete next year.”

“The team has really represented Sunset Avenue School and Clinton City schools excellently,” McGill said, enthusiastically.

This year’s group will be continuing on to regional competition in Lumberton on April 15.

North Carolina School Library Media Association sponsors the Battle of the Books program.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at