‘Battle of the Books’ inspires students

At Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School, friendly competition fosters love for reading

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Cape Horn-Skye students (from left to right) Brayden Aubrey, Teagan Berg, Jaxon Dunham and Emma Engel compete in a Dec. 13 "Battle of the Books" tournament. (Rene Carroll, for the Washougal School District)

Cape Horn-Skye Elementary teachers are inspiring young readers through their “Battle of the Books” program.

The Battle of the Books is for all students in grades three through five. Teachers encourage students to read from a specific list of 36 books. Students read the book, write a summary and then have a “book chat” with the teacher assigned to listen to the “chat” for that book.

“The ultimate goal, besides the students growing in knowledge of the reading materials, summary skills and speaking to adults that they might not necessarily have the opportunity to speak to, is to have a good time,” said fourth-grade teacher Kam Lawrence.

The Battle’s theme is “Knights of the Reading Table,” which connects to the school’s leadership program that introduces students to successful behavioral traits.

“We draw from the knights code of honor, which includes virtues such as honesty, courage and generosity to create meaningful discussions and projects around the theme,” explained Cape Horn-Skye Principal Penny Andrews.

To keep interest high in the Battle, two “tournaments” or incentive parties, are scheduled during the year, with the third tournament being a part of the final battle. To qualify for this first party, third-graders must have read, summarized and chatted about four books. The goal increases by grade, with fourth-graders needing to do the same with five books and fifth-graders having to have read, summarized and chatted about seven books.

Since the start of the 2018-19 school year, Lawrence said 117 students have qualified for the program and, collectively, read and summarized 726 books.

Last year, at the conclusion of the program, nearly 150 students had earned the ability to be a part of the final battle tournament. The final battle tests student knowledge of the books and features competing teams being asked questions about plot and characters.

On Dec. 13, a week before students went into their winter break, a tournament rewarded student readers with a chance to work creatively in teams that had members of each grade level. Teachers supplied a variety of craft items and challenged the students to build something “knightly.” The rules included using every item provided, giving each member of the team a voice and completing the project in 35 minutes or less. The students turned out creations that included castles, shields, swords and helmets.

If a student has not qualified for this first tournament, they are encouraged to keep reading so that they can qualify for the remaining two tournaments.

“By the end of the school year in June, fifth-graders must have read 15 books from the list, written 15 summaries and had 15 ‘book chats.’ The fourth graders, by June must have 13 books read, 13 summaries and 13 book chats and for the third-graders, the number is 10,” Lawrence said. “Most children will have read double what is required of them.”

Fifth-grader Clara Jones has already read seven books and said her personal goal is 17. Jones’ favorite books, so far, include those in “The Mysterious Benedict Society” series.

“I like competitions, especially friendly competitions that test your skills,” Jones said.

On Dec. 13, Andrews watched the enthusiastic students working as teams to create their project and said she had high hopes for their future love of reading.

“By the time these students are out of school we hope they will have read 1,000 books,” she said. “This program is just a way to help foster creativity, teamwork and a love of reading.”

~ Information provided by Rene Carroll, for the Washougal School District