Reading as a Sport

Hosting my monthly book club for Fifth Grade students is a delight. My Black-Eyed Susan Book club just completed its’ fifth straight year. The beauty of the Black-Eyed Susan Book club program is that it is student driven. I order multiple copies of the 10 titles nominated in the Grade 4-6 category and buy dessert for us to share while we meet over packed lunches in the Library. Students read at their own pace a minimum of 6 nominated books and vote on their favorite in April when the program comes to a close. The girls in my book club typically read all of the nominated books, discuss and recommend the titles they liked, and then start trading opinions about other books. Student voting is a powerful catalyst and it engages the students long after the book club is over. Like other rites of passage on our campus, students remember which book they voted for long after the ballots have been counted.

For the second year a group of readers from my Black-Eyed Susan Book Club formed a team to compete at our area Battle of the Books competition. I have never seized an opportunity to coach a team in my years’ as a school librarian. But the experience of bringing teams to the Battle really crystallized for me what a coach may feel while his or her players are on the field.

Last year I had a wonderful group of students in my Fifth Grade book club who had a strong interest in competing at the Battle. When our official book club lunch meetings ended, we still met as a team and practiced asking one another questions about the books. The students even used a Google Doc to capture practice questions and track what books teammates were reading. In their inaugural year the team tied for third place. Moving on to Middle School I invited the students from that team back to my Library for a special book club lunch this year where we talked about the Battle of the Books and what committing yourself to a team entails.

This year, another small group formed out of the members of the lunch time book club to become a Fifth Grade Battle of the Books team. We even had an alternate! In their competition this week, the Fifth Grade team was the only team to successfully initiate and win a challenge answer to a question in their round. That action was evidence of the team’s grit and determination! I am very grateful to the other independent school librarians who organized and hosted this years competition – it is no small undertaking.

It is very satisfying to see students of all ages, parents, administrators, and librarians as audience members engaging in the competition by supporting the teams. And Battle of the Books is great opportunity for our students to showcase their reading skills and interact with other students who share their passion for books. I would love to hear about other Battle of the Books competitions and any advice on how to better coach a team.


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