Fifth-grade Battle of the Books competition contestants commemorate their four months of reading by making and signing stuffed bears and dogs at Enchanted Beary Land on Friday. Back row from left: Halia Stites, Gabby Reyna and Gavin Wakefield; front row from left: Maggi Loudermilk, Mia Huddleston and Kaleigh Chappell. (Amy Vogelsang Photo)
In a reading challenge like no other, eight fifth-graders from Del Norte Elementary School read 97 books in four months. Three of those students went on to win third-place medals in the Battle of the Books competition held in Silver City on April 27.
Battle of the Books started as a radio program in Chicago in the 1930s and since has become a reading incentive program for elementary through high school students. The students are given a list of books to read and then must answer reading comprehension questions that each start with “In which book…?” The answer is always the book title and author.
“(This competition) challenged (the students) to read higher quality literature,” said Kristen Huddleston, whose daughter, Mia, has always loved reading but wasn’t always driven to read more challenging bodies of work.
The students all motivated each other and really showed dedication to their ultimate goal, even spending a couple lunch periods each week to meet with each other and their teacher to discuss the books.
Their teacher, Kelli Loudermilk, organized the group and pushed them to continue reading.
“It gives kids an incentive to read,” Loudermilk said of the program. And not just to read, but also to read books they wouldn’t necessarily pick up on their own.
Being mostly realistic fiction, some of the books on the list included “Hatchet,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Wonderstruck” and “Turtle in Paradise.” The latter was especially popular with the kids because it was about a girl their own age, Loudermilk said.
Another book, “Pie” by Sarah Weeks was a personal favorite of contestant Kaleigh Chappell. Chappell along with fellow teammates Halia Stites and Gavin Wakefield placed third overall in the state.
“I am so impressed,” Huddleston said, noting that none of the students missed a single author when answering the test questions.
The group became a much closer group of friends, Loudermilk said. To celebrate and commemorate the experience the students all made stuffed dogs and bears at Enchanted Beary Land, each stuffed animal then receiving the signature of every student involved.
It may have taken a lot of time and been challenging along the way, but when asked, Chappell responds with no hesitation that she would definitely compete in Battle of the Books again.