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East Elementary's Battle of the Books Team

East Elementary Battle of the Books team members pose with Ms. Bush (L to R): Jesus Chavez, Rebeca Soriano, Kayla Anguiano, Nicholas De la Cruz, Jonathan Thomas, Alex Dominguez, Ebin Barrino and Jaquan Mobley.

For many years, middle schools in UCPS have participated in the North Carolina Battle of the Books program, each school forming a team and participating in annual academic competitions at the district, regional and sometimes, state levels. This school year, for the first time, UCPS elementary schools were given a chance to participate in the N.C. Elementary Battle of the Books program. East Elementary School was one of four Union County elementary schools that chose to form a team. The other schools with teams are Marvin, Antioch and Rea View.

The Battle of the Books program is designed to foster a love for books and reading in students. Beginning in the fall and throughout the winter, students spend months reading and discussing a selection of quality literature, predominantly fiction titles. A few of the of the books on the reading list this year were older classics such as A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Others on the BOB list were new award-winning titles that are sure to become classics, such as How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. The students must remember details from the books as well as the names of the authors in order to prepare for an academic competition with teams from other schools in March.

At East Elementary, extracurricular clubs meet on Tuesday afternoons, and student have lots of clubs to choose from. East Elementary Library Media Coordinator, Lisa Bush, chose to sponsor a Battle of the Books team. Bush stated, “Originally I was thinking of having a regular book club, but last September, right at the time when clubs were forming here at East, Kathy Gwinn, the media coordinator at Antioch Elementary, was urging all the UCPS elementary schools to form BOB teams. I coached a middle school BOB team a couple of years ago and I knew our students at East would enjoy it. We have lots of good readers here.” Two other East staff members, fifth grade teacher Jennifer Fortnum and third grade teacher Ken Hare, stepped up to assist Ms. Bush as coaches. Eight fourth and fifth grade students opted to join the team. Twelve students are allowed to compete. “I was pleased with the team we had. I only wish the students were able to participate in more than one club. We had many more students who were interested in the Battle of the Books team, but due to transportation and time constraints, they had to choose between BOB and say, the chorus or drama clubs. Still, I have a feeling we will have a bigger team next year.”

To prepare for the “Battle”, the students discussed the books at club meetings after school as well as online, using discussion forums on a secure website designed for the club by Ms. Bush. The coaches read the books along with the students and wrote practice questions for them. One week before the district competition, the BOB team from Marvin Elementary School traveled to East Elementary to practice in a mock competition. This experience proved very helpful in preparing the teams for the actual competition on Monday, March 5, 2012. The East BOB team had an exciting time traveling to the UCPS Professional Development Center and meeting students and coaches from the other three schools. Fifth grader Ebin Barrino said, “The competition was one of the most fun days of my life.”

The competition lasted several hours and the questions were very challenging. The East team put forth their best effort and had a great time. BOB coach Jen Fortnum said, “I thought our team represented East Elementary School very well. I was so proud, seeing them sitting up in front of the judges.” One of the highlights of the competition was when East Elementary Principal Dr. David Kafitz showed up to cheer the students on. In the end, the Marvin team won the competition and the East team was truly pleased for them. They returned to school and celebrated with cake, snacks and juice. Then they made a congratulatory card to send to Marvin Elementary the following day.

The Battle of the Books club accomplished its goals for the year. The students read and enjoyed a variety of books they might not have chosen on their own. Fifth grader Alex Dominguez said, “My favorite book on the list was The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. It was funny and relaxing to read. I was happy to learn there are sequels to the book and I plan to read all of them.” Some BOB team members, such as fourth grader Rebeca Soriano, have expressed interest in being on East’s BOB team again next year. When asked what he liked about the club, fifth grader Jonathan Thomas gushed, “I loved everything about Battle of the Books. I want to do it when I get to the middle school.” Fellow fifth grader Kayla Anguiano also said she was interested in joining BOB when she goes to Monroe Middle next year.

Written by: Lisa Bush, Library Media Coordinator
Posted: Mar 21, 2012 by Lisa Bush

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