Fifth-graders take title in annual countywide Battle of the Books
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MOUNT VERNON — Six area students made history last night as the first home school team to compete in Knox County’s Battle of the Books. They went on to take the title, besting finalists from Columbia, Dan Emmett, East Elementary, Pleasant Street, St. Vincent de Paul, Twin Oak and Wiggin Street in a round-robin competition at Mount Vernon High School.
The home school roster included Acie Ballmer, Hawthorne Fleckenstein, Ian Pienkos, Abby Sexton, Abigail Steele and Lily Davis, who served as team captain. The kids prepared by splitting this year’s list of 88 books up among the team members and meeting to play review games like author bingo and Jeopardy.
“The quizzing helped a lot because we would read them over and over again until we remembered them,” said Lily Davis.
Second place went to East Elementary, coached by art teacher Katie Gentry. East Elementary’s team consisted of team captain Ellie Mack, Griffin Beach, Addison Citro, Kassi Eggert, Ben Hendrickson, Arianna McKee and Zoe Meyer.
Gentry said the program not only encourages kids to read, but helps them build friendships.
“It takes some kids who may not be reading very much, it pulls them up and they read more,” said Gentry. “And these kids seem to make a special bond; they find their people and enjoy it.”
Battle of the Books is annual competition between teams of Knox County fifth graders. Teams are given a reading list months in advance, then quizzed over quotes and plot points from the books. In order to earn full points for a question, a team must provide both the title and author of the correct book. This year’s competition began with preliminary rounds Tuesday. The initial lineup of 13 teams, included delegations from Mount Vernon, Centerburg, Danville and East Knox school districts.
“This is the first time we’ve had a home school team and with the addition of that team, it’s truly a countywide program,” said John Chidester, director of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.
“To be a first and to win too, it was very exciting,” said home school coach Lindsay Davis. Davis organized the team after her daughter saw fliers at the library and expressed an interest in competing.
“We’re always looking for unique learning opportunities in our home school and ways to engage in the community and this was definitely an opportunity to do that,” she said.
The event is organized by Marilyn Chidester, a retired library aide for Mount Vernon City Schools, and Sharon Tharp, a library media specialist and science teacher at St. Vincent de Paul school. Volunteers from Friends of the Library helped time and score the event.
This year’s reading list included classics such as “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” as well as newer titles like “Fish in a Tree,” which tells the story of a sixth-grade girl who struggles in school due to her dyslexia.
Chidester and Tharp switch out eight books from the list each year, curating a selection of old and new works from different genres.
“We’re very careful about the books we pick,” said Chidester. “You’re looking for content, genre, things the kids would be interested in reading about.”
Variety is also a big priority when selecting titles.
“We want to make sure they have a chance to be exposed to different books,” Chidester said. “It’s good for the kids to try different genres. Some ones you laugh, some ones you cry, and some ones, it’s just, “Wow, what a book!”
“It underscores the importance of reading,” said John Chidester. “Readers are thinkers. People don’t know how to think if they don’t know how to read, so this is something that the country needs. It’s good for the whole world.”
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