Battle of the Books

We've finished our 4th year of Battle of the Books at my high school.  For 3 years, we've also had a Clinton County  High School Battle of the Books competition as well as a Middle School  level Battle of the Books.  I think it is definitely one of the coolest programs based out of my library, but I can't take credit.  My very first year as librarian (4 years ago), our Agricultural teacher came into the library and said "LET'S HAVE A BATTLE OF THE BOOKS!" (Those of you who know him understand why that bit is all in capital letters...)  I immediately agreed and then asked "What is it and how do we get started?"  2 schools in our neighboring county had a thriving program and they allowed us to jump on their Battle of the Books bandwagon.  Although we don't compete with their schools, we do help select the yearly book lists and help write the questions for the competitions.

So, what exactly is Battle of the Books?  Read on for a quick run down of our version of it.

Each year in May, we (librarians & teachers from our 2 counties) choose 10 books from a variety of genres for our Battle of the Books list.  (We choose the books for the middle school competition via e-mails, but meet face-to-face to select the high school books.  It's a great time to be a fly on the wall...)  The goal is to have a list that has a book for every reader!

Last year's (2013) Battle of the Books lists:

High School:

The list itself is not revealed to students until mid October during Teen Read week.  (We like to get the books selected so we can order the book sets and begin reading/writing questions over summer break!)

In the mean time (usually beginning in September or earlier...), students form their own teams of up to 10 students.  Now that we're heading into our fifth (& fourth) year, teams at my school tend to stick together with new ones forming at the 6th grade level and minor changes happening as students graduate or don't read like team mates think they should.

After the list is revealed, a set of 10 books is given to each team's sponsor.  What's a team sponsor?  Basically, it's a teacher at my school who agrees to keep the book set in their classroom for the team members to check out.  That's the minimum requirement to be a sponsor.  Some team sponsors host weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meetings for their team, reading the books and discussing them together (sometimes even providing food!).  Each team decides how they will split up the reading and the 10 books.  Some teams are hard core and members read as many books as they can.  Other teams take the approach of 2 books per team member.  Again, it's all up to the individual teams.

In February, the local Battle of the Books competitions take place at each high school in our county.  Teams sit together and have 20 seconds to write an answer for each question given.  The questions are in a power point projected to a big screen.  The high school competition has 150 questions; 15 per book.  The competition usually takes about 2 hours and is a site to behold.  Students really get into the "team spirit" thing and some go all out!  (This year during our brief intermission, we also created a Battle of the Books Harlem Shake video.)  Students hoot and holler as their answers are correct and/or incorrect.  Table monitors sit with each team to keep score and check the answers at the end of each 20 second set.  Did I mention the staff team?  Each year, a group of teachers forms a team and competes against the students too!  At the end of the competition, the winning team receives prizes, bragging rights, and the honor of representing our school at the county battle.

After the local battles, we have our Clinton County Battle of the Books competition at one of the high schools with the winning team from each school.  The questions are different but the battle is quite similar with perhaps even more craziness (and pizza!)

At the middle school level, we have our Battle of the Books competition during the school day.  It takes about 90 minutes total, as we have only 100 questions (10 per book).  We host this in our auxiliary gym and like the high school competition, it is awesome to see students so engrossed in answering questions about the books read and celebrating!

All in all, it is a great program that students (and teachers) really love and enjoy!  I highly recommend starting one at your school.  If you're interested and want to hear more, please let me know!


  1. I shared this with our 6th grade team. We do the Battle, but are trying to reconfigure.


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