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Read all about it! Battle of the Books competition

Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Tension filled the library at Tustumena Elementary School. The observers rimming the room sat in total silence, eyes fixed on three students who whispered urgently among themselves.

A voice came from the speaker phone on the library table declaring the first round of Friday's statewide Battle of the Books competition over. Voices from the far-flung corners of Alaska chorused "Congratulations, Tustu-mena."

With a click, the conference call ended.

The library, so quiet a moment before, erupted in cheers and activity as students leapt out of their chairs and hugged each other, their coaches and family members.

"Oh, the stress," said Karla Barkman, the school librarian and one of the team coaches.

The match for third- and fourth-graders was the last division for the annual statewide academic contest. The championship "battles" began Feb. 20 and continued through last Friday, starting with the oldest students. The bouts all took place long-distance using teleconference links.

Battle of the Books is a contest where Kenai Peninsula students shine. This year, peninsula teams won two of the four divisions and did well in the others.

The Skyview High School team -- Angela Jones, Megan Lyons, Gabby Novak and alternate Amanda Marshall -- came out on top of 27 competing schools after winning six elimination rounds. In the final match, they defeated second-place Interior Distance Education of Alaska (IDEA). Third place went to Mount Edgecumbe.

Soldotna Middle School captured its fourth straight state title. Team members Becky Kilfoyle, Rachel Beatty, Terrence Carlson and alternates Kristen Galvin and Ali Wykis competed with 33 other district winning teams in the single-elimination tournament Feb. 21. In the final round, they trounced runner-up Newhalen School from the Lake and Peninsula School District with a score of 120 to 56. Third place went to IDEA's team.

In the competition for grades five and six, West Homer Elementary represented the district. The school had the misfortune to meet Fairbanks in the first round. The Fairbanks team beat Homer and went on to tie for first in the state.

The Tustumena team -- Mark Youngren, Hunter Link, Morgen Fowler and alternates Emily Culhane and Jesse Carlson -- went all the way to the finals, ultimately tying for third place.

Thirty-seven teams competed, and the competition ran from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. First place in state for that grade level went to June Nelson Elementary School from the Northwest Arctic School District; second went to Girdwood Elementary representing the Anchorage district. The team that tied with Tustumena was from Alyeska Central School, the state's correspondence program.

Battle of the Books is sponsored by the Alaska Association of School Librarians to foster reading motivation and comprehension. It began in Kodiak in 1981.

Sherry Bowen works for the District Media Center in Soldotna, which coordinates the competition for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. More than 400 students from about 30 peninsula schools took part this year. Every year, more Kenai Peninsula students participate, and the district has become a powerhouse in the state competition, she said.

The success has become a tradition, and a lot of that tradition begins in the Kasilof school.

Tustumena Battle of the Books participants from past years have gone on to star on teams at Soldotna Middle School, Skyview High School and Soldotna High School. This is the fifth year in a row a Tustumena team has represented the district at state. In 1998, its fifth-sixth-grade team won the state championship and other Tustumena teams have placed high in other years.

This year, 50 Tustumena students signed up to try out for the team.

"That is competing against intramural sports and recess. These kids give up two months of recess," said third-grade teacher and team coach Ann Fraser.

"This program gets kids excited about reading, and reading books they never would otherwise."

Students who participate read 15 challenging and diverse books the librarians select for each age bracket. To do well, students must read the books more than once. To win championships, they must practically memorize them.

The judges ask questions beginning with the stock phrase, "In which book ... ." And some of the questions are incredibly picky.

Despite the hard work, students who love reading love Battle of the Books, too.

Parents Curt and Patty Youngren were at Tustumena Friday to watch their son, Mark, the team spokesperson, compete. Mark's older sister, Sarah, has been competing in Battle of the Books since she was in third grade. This year, she was on the SoHi team, which lost out to Skyview by a single question. The Youngrens know other families with siblings on different teams, they said.

"There are a huge number of kids who participate," Patty Youngren said.

Barkman said the program teaches teamwork, sportsmanship and a passion for books. For the youngest students, it nudges them to take the plunge into big, chapter books and focusing on the details.

"It makes a huge difference in what they are reading," she said.

"We never go into this with winning as a goal. Winning is nice. Our goal is to get kids reading," she said.

HEAD:Read all about it!

HEAD:Everyone wins with Battle of the Books competition

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Tension filled the library at Tustumena Elementary School. The observers rimming the room sat in total silence, eyes fixed on three students who whispered urgently among themselves.

A voice came from the speaker phone on the library table declaring the first round of Friday's statewide Battle of the Books competition over. Voices from the far-flung corners of Alaska chorused "Congratulations, Tustu-mena."

With a click, the conference call ended.

The library, so quiet a moment before, erupted in cheers and activity as students leapt out of their chairs and hugged each other, their coaches and family members.

"Oh, the stress," said Karla Barkman, the school librarian and one of the team coaches.

The match for third- and fourth-graders was the last division for the annual statewide academic contest. The championship "battles" began Feb. 20 and continued through last Friday, starting with the oldest students. The bouts all took place long-distance using teleconference links.

Battle of the Books is a contest where Kenai Peninsula students shine. This year, peninsula teams won two of the four divisions and did well in the others.

The Skyview High School team -- Angela Jones, Megan Lyons, Gabby Novak and alternate Amanda Marshall -- came out on top of 27 competing schools after winning six elimination rounds. In the final match, they defeated second-place Interior Distance Education of Alaska (IDEA). Third place went to Mount Edgecumbe.

Soldotna Middle School captured its fourth straight state title. Team members Becky Kilfoyle, Rachel Beatty, Terrence Carlson and alternates Kristen Galvin and Ali Wykis competed with 33 other district winning teams in the single-elimination tournament Feb. 21. In the final round, they trounced runner-up Newhalen School from the Lake and Peninsula School District with a score of 120 to 56. Third place went to IDEA's team.

In the competition for grades five and six, West Homer Elementary represented the district. The school had the misfortune to meet Fairbanks in the first round. The Fairbanks team beat Homer and went on to tie for first in the state.

The Tustumena team -- Mark Youngren, Hunter Link, Morgen Fowler and alternates Emily Culhane and Jesse Carlson -- went all the way to the finals, ultimately tying for third place.

Thirty-seven teams competed, and the competition ran from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. First place in state for that grade level went to June Nelson Elementary School from the Northwest Arctic School District; second went to Girdwood Elementary representing the Anchorage district. The team that tied with Tustumena was from Alyeska Central School, the state's correspondence program.

Battle of the Books is sponsored by the Alaska Association of School Librarians to foster reading motivation and comprehension. It began in Kodiak in 1981.

Sherry Bowen works for the District Media Center in Soldotna, which coordinates the competition for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. More than 400 students from about 30 peninsula schools took part this year. Every year, more Kenai Peninsula students participate, and the district has become a powerhouse in the state competition, she said.

The success has become a tradition, and a lot of that tradition begins in the Kasilof school.

Tustumena Battle of the Books participants from past years have gone on to star on teams at Soldotna Middle School, Skyview High School and Soldotna High School. This is the fifth year in a row a Tustumena team has represented the district at state. In 1998, its fifth-sixth-grade team won the state championship and other Tustumena teams have placed high in other years.

This year, 50 Tustumena students signed up to try out for the team.

"That is competing against intramural sports and recess. These kids give up two months of recess," said third-grade teacher and team coach Ann Fraser.

"This program gets kids excited about reading, and reading books they never would otherwise."

Students who participate read 15 challenging and diverse books the librarians select for each age bracket. To do well, students must read the books more than once. To win championships, they must practically memorize them.

The judges ask questions beginning with the stock phrase, "In which book ... ." And some of the questions are incredibly picky.

Despite the hard work, students who love reading love Battle of the Books, too.

Parents Curt and Patty Youngren were at Tustumena Friday to watch their son, Mark, the team spokesperson, compete. Mark's older sister, Sarah, has been competing in Battle of the Books since she was in third grade. This year, she was on the SoHi team, which lost out to Skyview by a single question. The Youngrens know other families with siblings on different teams, they said.

"There are a huge number of kids who participate," Patty Youngren said.

Barkman said the program teaches teamwork, sportsmanship and a passion for books. For the youngest students, it nudges them to take the plunge into big, chapter books and focusing on the details.

"It makes a huge difference in what they are reading," she said.

"We never go into this with winning as a goal. Winning is nice. Our goal is to get kids reading," she said.



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