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March 26, 2014

Students read to learn, compete, have fun

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — About 60 students at Worcester and Schenevus central schools have gone beyond classroom reading assignments and delved into books to compete in the second year of the Battle of the Books.

Fifteen teams will compete this and next weekend to test their knowledge of characters, facts and authors associated with fiction and nonfiction books, organizer Donna Jo Cody, Worcester Free Library director, said Tuesday.

Students compete on teams of four, she said, and reading began in September. Books were available at the schools and in the library, Cody said, and her recommendation was that students read at least 10 of the 20 books selected for their level.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Schenevus Central School, sixth- through eighth-graders will test their knowledge of 20 books chosen by Cody. From 10 a.m. to noon April 5, teams of third- through fifth-grade pupils will compete at Worcester Central School.

Cody said she started the program in the fall of 2012 and was pleased that participation has grown from six teams competing last spring. Also, the program in the 2012-13 academic year was for third- through fifth-graders, she said, and some of the fifth-graders expressed interest in continuing the challenge, which led to formation of a middle school level this academic year.

“It’s a really great program,” Cody said. By participating, students are introduced to books outside the classroom, she said, and they learn to discuss the books’ characters and topics and also learn how to cooperate with team members.

Meanwhile, Cody has found sponsors for the event and prizes, and she and other community members have been preparing questions for the students and volunteering to help with the competitions.

Cody said this year Friends of the Library, Walmart and other area businesses have provided financial support for books and prizes.

Cody said books for middle school students included “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin.

For third- through fifth-graders, selections included “Same Sun Here” by Silas House and Neela Vaswani and “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett, she said.

Coleen Lewis, principal at Schenevus Central School, said she has been coaching an elementary team called Endless Readers. To participate, students have to demonstrate commitment to read and to meet once a week, she said, and they learn about competitions and how to answer questions.

Cody said some anecdotal benefits of Battle of the Books have included parent comments that children are more interested in reading and families spend more time together reading.

Kieran Jennings, 12, a sixth-grader, said likes the program because he enjoys reading and was looking for a challenge. Books present a range of experiences and information, he said, and another benefit is that his reading has improved.

Jennings said he looks forward to the competition with his team, which is called the Library Rats.

“It’s actually going to be fun,” he said.