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Which elementary and middle school youngsters know the most within the pages?

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY AMBER FREEMAN - The Boomin' Bookworms team, Sophie Fischer, Jillian Mapes, Katie Anderson, Harper Smith and Lou Potvin, was victorious at Crooked River Elementary and will head to the regional battle on Saturday.

There have been some fierce battles going on in the libraries and classrooms across the Crook County School District.

But don't panic.

These enthusiastic students are battling over the content of books.

It's called Oregon Battle of the Books, and several victorious teams will compete at a region-wide battle this Saturday at Sisters Middle School.

"Oregon Battle of the Books is an amazing program that encourages readers to read and challenges even our younger readers who have persevered and made huge accomplishments through the competition," said Crooked River Elementary fifth-grade teacher Amber Freeman, who helped get the program started at her school last year. "It focuses on various genres while incorporating teamwork with various grades mixed in teams."

Here's how it works.

Students in each age division divide into teams of three, four or five. Members divvy up the 16 official books so that at least one person on the team reads each book. Some students, however, challenge themselves to read all of the books.

There are three divisions: third, fourth and fifth grade; sixth, seventh and eighth grade; and ninth through 12th grade. Each division has its own set of age-appropriate books.

And these aren't your graphic novels or comic books – these are novels.

For example, the elementary students read the likes of Barbara O'Connor's "Wish," which tells the story of a little girl's greatest wish. They also read a Holocaust remembrance story, "Hana's Suitcase," by Karen Levine.

Middle schoolers read Oregon author Roland Smith's science fiction novel "Cryptid Hunters," and April Henry's mystery "The Body in the Woods."

"I look forward to each year when it's time for students to start checking out OBOB books at the library," Freeman said. "It's been exciting to see various levels of students be excited about reading and being successful!"

Students are given a few months to complete their reading before the battles begin. Teams face each other and are quizzed on the books' content.

For the first eight questions, the teams are given information from a book, and they have to respond with the correct title and author. They get three points for the correct title and two points for the correct author. If they answer one or both incorrectly, the other team has an opportunity to take the points.

The next eight questions are called content questions. They are told what book the question was coming from, but it could be anything from that book. They have to answer it correctly or the other team is asked.

In Crook County, four schools are participating in the program this school year after Freeman and CRE third-grade teacher Jeri McCormack brought it to their school last year.

Freeman said she was excited that other schools jumped in this year, including Barnes Butte Elementary, Crook County Middle School and Powell Butte Community Charter School.

CRE has 31 participants this year on seven teams. Last Friday, the top two teams squared off in the school championship.

Team Boomin' Bookworms, comprised of Sophie Fischer, Jillian Mapes, Katie Anderson, Harper Smith and Lou Potvin, was victorious and will head to the regional battle on Saturday.

Last year, because it was the first time for CRE students to compete, they did not send a team to the regional level.

"We're very excited to take our championship team this year to the next level," Freeman said.

Crook County Education Association helped fund the program at CRE this school year.

 - The Barnes Butte Elementary O'Bobbers Battle of the Books team will face the Bookworms in the championship battle Friday afternoon. Pictured left to right, Hoyt Kudlac, Caleb Decker, June Conner and Eleanor Klann.Barnes Butte Elementary Academic Coach Sarah Klann is overseeing Battle of the Books at her school this season, which involves 54 students on 14 teams.

"It is an honor working beside our sister school CRE. Emulating their program and collaborating made complete sense for us," Klann said. "This has been an unforgettable program inception for Barnes Butte Elementary."

St. Charles Foundation and Rotary Club of Crook County provided grants to help purchase the books at BBE.

"Our tattered collection of book sets serve as a visual reminder to just how impactful this program has been for our children," Klann said. "The smiles, dedication, perseverance, and team camaraderie amongst our 54 participants has been an absolute joy to watch unfold."

The top two BBE teams will compete in the school championship battle at 1:45 p.m. Friday, March 8.

The Bookworms team, Abigail Gattey, Jolene Bartolotti, Graeme O'Gorman and Gabi Ramos will face the O'Bobbers, June Conner, Hoyt Kudlac, Caleb Decker and Eleanor Klann.

Sarah Klann said that because this is their first year, they will not send the champion team to the Sisters competition.

Powell Butte Community Charter School fifth-grade teacher Kelly Joyce teamed up with Samantha Smith, the school's volunteer librarian, to launch Battle of the Books at both the elementary and middle school levels.

"We thought it would drum up some enthusiasm and get the kids reading books that they wouldn't normally approach, and to get them out of their graphic novel and that type of comic book path that they typically take," Joyce said.

Eleven younger students formed three teams, and 10 middle school students formed two teams.

Last Friday, they battled to determine the top team from each age group.

The elementary division team, the Happy Reading Glitter Pugs comprised of fifth-graders Diana Behrndt, Isaac Ritter, Isaac Choate and Zach Lester, won and will go to Sisters on Saturday. The middle school team, The Book Huggers, will compete as well.

 - The final two Crook County Middle School teams, the Killer Sprinkles and the Bookeneers, battle for the championship Tuesday. Pictured left to right, Kylie Merwin, Sawyer McDonald, Aubrie Olson, Dylanne Smith, Tanner Joyce, Aidan Bonner, Issac Freeman and Caiden Rosas."A lot of them were pleasantly surprised by how good the books were. They were exposed to genres and to topics that they would not have normally been exposed to," Joyce said. "A lot of boys don't pick up books that have females on the cover."

CCMS librarian Kris Jones also jumped into the battle this school year, and 28 students formed seven teams.

"I had a group of pretty enthusiastic kids this year that were interested in doing it and that motivated us all to implement it," she said.

Using funds from the Box Tops for Education program, Jones was able to purchase seven copies of each of the 16 books.

The top two teams will battle Tuesday morning for the school championship.

The Killer Sprinkles team of Kylie Merwin, Sawyer McDonald, Aubrie Olson and Dylanne Smith will face the Bookeneers, Tanner Joyce, Aidan Bonner, Issac Freeman and Caiden Rosas.

The winner will also head to Sisters on Saturday to compete regionally.

Winners of the regional competition will advance to the state tournament, which is scheduled for April 6 at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.

"The Oregon Battle of the Books program is a phenomenal opportunity for our students to expand their knowledge while participating in a fun team-building environment," she said. "The competition adds an air of excitement and adventure to the reading process."

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