By Linda Lane
A total of 191 students in 31 teams will be participating in this year’s Battle of the Books, with 18 teams from Vicksburg, 10 from Schoolcraft and three from Parchment.
The Battle will kick off on Saturday, February 18 at 10 a.m. in Schoolcraft’s Performing Arts Center (PAC). The Grand Battle with the four final teams will be held on Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m. at the same location. On Saturday, four preliminary Battles and two semi-final Battles will boil down to four top ranking teams for the Grand Battle on Thursday.
“There are multiple teams who come to the Library to study; their excitement is palpable and contagious. I love to hear how the kids are enjoying the books from the participants who come in to check out Battle books,” said Faye VanRavenswaay, Schoolcraft’s library director. “For librarians, it is all about the books and creating a love for books and reading. I don’t think that will ever change.”
“This year there are 14 Battle coaches who are teachers, aides, and other staff who are volunteering to work with kids on a Battle team. I think that is an impressive number,” VanRavenswaay said.
VanRavenswaay coordinates Battle of the Books and works closely with Jenny Taylor, a teacher at Vicksburg’s Sunset Elementary School. Over the summer, VanRavenswaay and Taylor read lots of Young Reader books to boil down the list selected for the Battle to 12 books. Taylor puts in many, many additional hours after the 12 books are selected to write hundreds of questions to be used during the Battle. She will serve as the moderator during the Battle competition, asking the teams on stage questions from all 12 books. VanRavenswaay will act as emcee, reading rules, introducing teams and thanking participants and sponsors. More than 20 additional volunteers on the days of Battle will assist staff at the doors, check in teams at the registration desk, monitor the cafeteria and take photos.
Kelli Mein, 5th grade teacher at Schoolcraft Elementary School, has teamed up with her daughter, Kaiti Mein to coach the “Rainbow Readers” a team of six students plus an alternate from the Schoolcraft Middle School. Students are eligible to participate in Battle of the Books in 4th, 5th and 6th grades.
“Kaiti wanted to do it with me. I was a co-coach when my daughter started Battle in 4th grade many years ago. She asked me to co-coach a team with her when she was in high school. This is our third year now co-coaching a Battle team. Kaiti loves reading, working with kids, and wants to become a teacher,” Kelli Mein said.
Like many Battle teams, Meins’ Rainbow Readers started out meeting for 45 minutes once a week in November, moved to twice a week meetings in January, and the week before Battle extend their meetings to 75 minutes twice a week.
“These kids prepare for Battle for ten weeks, picking a team name, designing their T-shirts, reading books, organizing who’s reading which books, writing questions, and having mock Battles with other teams. Not all kids are involved in sports, so this provides an opportunity for many kids to experience team spirit, camaraderie, leadership growth and the thrill of competition,” Mein said.
“The kids liked the sound of ‘Rainbow Readers,’ and the idea of having a rainbow on stage with multicolored shirts. They wanted Kaiti and I to have white T-shirts to represent the clouds surrounding a rainbow. They even designed how they would pose for the picture. Because Aiden Flinton is the only boy on the team, they thought his placement in the team photo needed to be unique. That’s why he’s lying on the floor in front of the rest of the team.”
“Our team is an amazing group of kids, I’m telling you what! They’re fun, but very focused on getting the work done,” Mein said.