By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 14 2017
A love is developed between ardent readers and the literature they consume.
At Wilberforce Elementary School four students will use their passion for reading to work as a team at the upcoming Battle of the Books a Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) competition that promotes reading.
The battle is a head-to-head format of two teams of four from different schools. Questions will test the students’ knowledge of the book related to the characters plot and other details.
Named the #purplesmileyface team Wilberforce’s foursome consists of Grade 8s Tianna Huiser Sydney Little and Chelsea Flynn and Grade 7 student Nikita Watson. They have been busy reading the young adult novels on the list: Boy on the Wooden Box Home of the Brave The Honest Truth Iqbal Beneath Pendragon Lost in the Sun The Red Pencil The Marvels and Wolf Brother.
The team hopes to advance from the TLDSB Battle on March 29 at Central Senior School in Lindsay to the TLDSB finals on April 5 at the Rene M. Caisse Memorial Theatre in Bracebridge.
Tianna who is the veteran of the team with two seasons (one with WES) of competition under her belt loves reading for the rich detail.
“For example when you watch Harry Potter you don’t know what is going on in Harry’s head but it describes everything that he is feeling” she said.
She said the books on the list include fiction and non-fiction but primarily focus on young protagonists similar in age who are facing challenges such as cancer and persecution.
The members with previous experience Tianna Nikita and Sydney will be learning from past mistakes such as buzzing in for the answer before the entire question is asked.
Each team is responsible for knowing details about all 10 books. How each team does that is up to its members and advisor. At the south area competition the question will be posed as a quote and teams will have to identify the book from the quote.
Tianna said Chelsea decided to divide up the books so each of them could be an expert for certain books. Each member has a responsibility and will trust in one another.
Chelsea a voracious reader averaging two books a day said reading for this competition has broadened her perspective particularly after she and Sydney re-read one of the books.
Two years ago Sydney competed in her first Battle of the Books.
Despite coming from a small school the four didn’t know each other that well but have grown closer and learned more about each other during this process. They also have a clearer understanding of the kinds of books each of them is interested in.
If the team is successful at the south area battle in Lindsay and moves on to the finals then they will know what to expect as Tianna earned a berth as a junior years before. She remembers making the final round with her school at the time Archie Stouffer Elementary School.
“It was intense. You go up on to the stage. The lights are dimmed. All eyes are on you. It’s table against table and you have to buzz in and say it out in front of a huge audience in Bracebridge. It’s very intimidating” she said.
That was her first competition. It caught her off guard because the round before at the south area competition there were just a handful of people watching.
Without a second team the foursome will practise by breaking into two teams of two and go through mock competitions which will include signalling for attention and answering questions similar to what might be asked.
As long as the two junior teams have fulfilled their reading obligation of 10 books WES will host a sudden-death format competition to decide the second team that competes at the south area event on March 29. There will be 60 questions asked six questions per book for the junior competition. WES will send a intermediate team and hopes to send a junior team.
Faculty advisors Scott Schelter and Laurie Bowker are as excited as their students. Schelter has made efforts to keep the team members motivated provided a reading space at recess and maintained the students’ excitement for the books with activities and discussion.
There are many benefits to this competition to encourage reading he said.
“Reading is an excellent way to promote literacy. We’re required to teach literacy. It’s a core skill to be successful in life. So encouraging reading in any way to get them reading more gets them thinking about the book” he said.
The assigned books listed include one on the Holocaust a topic that wouldn’t necessarily be a first choice for young readers.
“They’re presenting themes that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise run into. The Holocaust is well-known but it’s not something that Grade 7s and 8s would run into in their daily life usually” he said.
There may be residual benefits for other students at the school he adds.
“When their classmates that aren’t participating see the four of them on the team [get] the opportunities that are given to them because they’ll be able to travel to another school to do their competition … hopefully it entices more people that might not be otherwise inclined to lean towards reading for fun” he said.
Schelter sees this competition as an opportunity for his students to experience the team dynamic. WES has few school teams due to the small population. This group is seeing the value of cohesion and teamwork with this experience as reading is distributed according to interest and abilities instead of everyone reading all the listed books.
“They’re really seeing the value of co-ordinating their own efforts to make sure that as many of them as possible covered all that material. It really does promote them talking with each other and metacognition reflecting on what it will take to be successful and to plan a strategy” he said.