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Fourth graders placed first at Oregon Battle of the Books regional championships.  

A group of Hallinan Elementary School students put their love of reading to the test and it paid off.

On Saturday, April 23, fourth graders Elise Irving, Emma Irving, Sylvie Marra, Kaylie McKinley, and Maahika Singh took home the top prize at the Oregon Battle of the Books Regional Championship for the third-to-fifth grade category.

"(Winning) was one of those things that seemed impossible but then it just happens," said Sylvie.

Oregon Battle of the Books is a statewide reading competition where students read the same 16 books and are instructed to soak in all the details of their plots so that they are prepared to answer content-based trivia questions during the battles. COURTESY PHOTO: GILLIAN FLACCUS - The students said their winning strategy was a mixture of teamwork and compromise.

"I think OBOB is great for different readers and could get them (into) more books because they're having fun with their friends. And for people who already love reading, it is a good way for them to meet new people and find more books that they like," Elise said.

This year, the students who called themselves the "Junior Librarians" read books ranging from nonfiction to fantasy. In the months leading up to the competition, the group said they not only read all the books but held each accountable by coming up with practice trivia questions.

"We read all of the books on our own time, but we also had lots of meetings and asked questions to each other about what we were reading," said Maahika.

The students said some of the books were more challenging than others, like "Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White" by Melissa Sweet, which contained a lot of information to memorize. But the team said they found some new favorites and learned about subjects like climate change.

"It's really hard for me to find books that I like. So, what I liked about OBOB is it gives you a chance to read stuff that I would never ever try to read," said Kaylie.

In March, the students participated in a classroom competition where they beat out the rest of their classmates to advance to the regional competition. The team was one of 16 third-to-fifth grade teams to do so, but according to Emma the road to victory was "bittersweet."

"It felt good because we won, but then we kept feeling sad because it was against our friends," said Kaylie.

In their region, the Junior Librarians battled against 20 other teams ranging from other Lake Oswego schools to Tualatin and Oregon City.

During the regional competition, the students attempted to rack up as many points as possible by answering the questions correctly. In the second half of the tournament, the team survived the elimination rounds and reigned victorious.

The team members said their success boiled down to strategy and teamwork. When they had trouble agreeing on an answer within their 20-second window during the tournament, they would listen to each person's reasoning for an answer before deciding as a group.

Lake Oswego as a whole won big at the literacy competition, as the team from Lakeridge Middle School ranked first place in their respective regional championship. The Westridge Elementary School team placed second in their regional championship and had the sixth-highest final round score in Oregon. Normally, Lakeridge Junior High and Hallinan teams would head to the state championship next to battle it out, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OBOB decided not to host it this year.

The Hallinan team also had success on a state level, as the team was ranked with the 13th highest final round score in all of Oregon. The Junior Librarians said not only were they proud of their success but that the competition made them appreciate books more.

"OBOB teaches people that you have to really pay attention (to books) because if you whizz through them you don't get to enjoy them as much." said Emma. "Sometimes (the competition) got stressful. But in the end, it's way more fun than stressful."

The team hopes to compete together again next year.

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