By Sue Moore
The Battle, as most everyone calls it, teaches young people who participate good sportsmanship, leadership, team building and even losing gracefully, says Faye VanRavenswaay, Schoolcraft Library’s director. “I get a real thrill watching kids who are not readers convert to liking to read as they participate in the Battle.”
This year the winnowing down of the 35 teams to four teams will take place on Saturday, February 20, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center (PAC). The participating students in grades 4-6 are from Schoolcraft, Vicksburg and Parchment.
The Grand Battle for the final four teams will take place on Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m.
A lot of preparation for the Battle takes place behind the scenes, according to VanRavenswaay. Bobbi Truesdell, who started the Battle as part of her responsibilities at the library, has helped her successor, Jenny Taylor, select the 12 books for the students to read. This is the second year for Taylor, a third grade teacher at Sunset Elementary in Vicksburg. She spent her summer vacation composing the thousands of questions about the books that the teams will face on stage at the PAC.
Members of the teams have to spend many hours reading, practicing and planning their wardrobe for the occasion. They can call their teams most anything. That leads to imaginative names such as Tobey Elementary’s first place team in 2015, the Question Marks. They even rehearse with mock battles in preparation for the big day, says VanRavenswaay.
All of the people who help with the Battle are volunteers, even VanRavenswaay’s staff, who spend their Saturday helping with the many details it takes to complete the Battle successfully. Other volunteers who have been helping for years include Thom and Kris DeWolfe, Sharon Zakrzewski, a number of school liaisons, the library board, Friends of the Library, individual community members, and Gary Monroe on the technology team with the DeWolfes. They assist with the scoring projected above the stage. Even the coaches come back year after year, including some who participated when they were in elementary school, VanRavenswaay says.
The library depends on sponsors who help to defray the expenses. They include Kazoo Books which also carry the selection of books in their store and donate gift certificates to the winners. Others include On Purpose Branding, Otten Trophy, Subway, Pizza Hut, Hungry Howie’s, Little Caesars, Bella Creamery, Bob Evans, and Friends of the Library.