Battle of the books

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For the past eight months, students from around the diocese have been working their way through a list of 15 books, reading in their free time and meeting weekly with classmates and teachers to discuss what they've learned.

All those hours of preparation built to an epic conclusion May 21, as students from 19 local Catholic schools gathered in Arlington for this year's Battle of the Books. Now in its 25th year, the Battle of the Books is a three-part competition that tests fifth- and sixth-graders on their reading comprehension skills through written, verbal and essay questions. The competition, which took place at the Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus Council Home, was organized by local Catholic school librarians, with assistance from the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.

Since September, student competitors have each read books spanning several genres, including humor, fantasy, historical fiction, classics, mystery and nonfiction. During the competition in Arlington, representatives from the Office of Catholic Schools asked students questions about each book. A team of librarians served as judges, awarding each team as many as 12 points per answer.

According to Karen Kelly, librarian from St. Mary School in Alexandria, the purpose of the Battle of the Books program is to get students excited about reading.

"I think all of us would agree, we want students to leave the Battle of the Books program with a love of reading and an exposure to a wide range of genres," Kelly said.

Kathie DeGeorges, librarian at St. James School in Falls Church, echoed that idea, saying the program encourages students to pick up books they might normally never choose to read.

"Kids get into reading and they might want to only read one kind of book, but we pull in classics" and other types of books, she said. "We might have kids that might only read fantasy, but they find that they like realistic fiction or historical fiction."

At the end of the competition, St. James School was named the grand champion and rewarded with a Battle of the Books banner to hang in their school.

Vickie Coyle, librarian at All Saints School in Manassas, also hoped they will bring something else home with them as well - an excitement about reading.

"This is really a reading program to enrich their love of literature," she said. "It's all about literature, all about reading and promoting good books to the kids."

Bahr can be reached on Twitter@KBahrACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013