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James John Elementary School takes state title in annual Oregon Battle of the Books reading competition

Students at a St. Johns elementary school are celebrating after taking first place in the Northwest region at the 2019 Oregon Battle of the Books reading competition.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF PPS - West Sylvan Middle School students (top) and James John Elementary School students (bottom) won state titles in the 2019 Oregon Battle of the Books competition.The Rose City Readers, a group of five third-through-fifth graders at James John Elementary School in north Portland, won the annual OBOB for their grade division and region on April 6 at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. This year was the first the students competed in the reading competition.

OBOB challenges elementary students across the state to read and explore new authors and themes. Each participating school forms teams, which are then tasked with reading a list of books that they are eventually quizzed on during competitions. Selected teams in each grade division then go on to compete at a statewide competition.

Adahlia King, Brody Reid, Claire Streib, Zahra Faruqui, and Zayd Faruqui comprise the Rose City Readers team. The north Portland team competed against 24 teams this year.

West Sylvan Middle School took home the state title for middle school readers, while Creswell High School won for the ninth through 12th grade division.

To compete in OBOB, teams of elementary and middle school students hit the books, literally, in summer or fall, tackling a 16-book reading list. High schoolers receive a list of 12 books to read.

The James John team was led this year by librarian/media specialist Robin Rolfe, who has worked at the elementary school for 13 years.

Marcus Covert, a parent with two kids at James John Elementary, said the win was a nice surprise for the school.

"This (school) is in the heart of St. Johns," Covert said by phone Friday. "We have a larger amount of students who qualify for free lunches than normal. There's a lot of folks struggling here, so I'm just really proud."

Covert's children weren't old enough to compete in this year's OBOB competition, but his eldest, Oliver, was able to take part in an eight-book challenge the St. Johns elementary school offered,

for younger students who weren't old enough to compete at the state level.

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