Berlin Community School has much more than just the fast-approaching end of the school year to celebrate, especially after students from BCS won first place at a South Jersey regional Battle of the Books competition late last month.
Teacher and club coordinator Denise Weintraut has helped put together the regional reading competition for the past five years. She said this year saw the most interest from BCS students, while the competition itself also continues to grow, with other local schools continuing to join.
“Schools all over the South Jersey area are involved, which is pretty cool,” said Weintraut. “And it’s been growing as time goes by with adding different schools.”
BCS competes at three grade levels in the competition, with the separate competitions being established for teams of third- and fourth-graders for one, fifth- and sixth-graders for another, and seventh- and eighth-graders for the oldest level.
Each school is allowed to enter two teams per grade level for a maximum of six teams from a school in the entire competition between the three different levels,
At this year’s competition at Lindenwold High School, one of BCS’s eighth-grade teams, comprised of Cassie Straub, Jeremiah Robles Blackwell, Abigail Height, Maria Hourihan, Jake Cunningham, Jenna Slater and Gavin Dina, won first place, bringing home another medal to continue a strong tradition of reading comprehension at BCS after not missing a single question during the competition to receive a perfect score.
Of the 13 competing schools and more than 40 teams in attendance, Berlin was one of only two schools to send two teams at each grade level for the Battle of the Books competition, showing exceptional participation.
Weintraut said the books for the competition, which are different at each grade level, are determined during the summer in anticipation of the competition nearly a year into the future, giving students the opportunity to read any of the 15 books that will be on the title list.
“The kids practice all year long for this competition, and all the questions are basically book trivia,” said Weintraut. “We tell our kids that you have to read at least five to compete on our team.”
With each kid reading the minimum five, even the worst-case scenario allows for at least two students from BCS to serve as an “expert” on those five books.
Typically, the list includes at least two books that are slightly similar in background, such as multiple books involving soccer or science, making it difficult for those who didn’t read the specific book to confidently guess an answer.
Students at BCS would meet every other month, while also reading additional books throughout the year, to practice.
“We have a lot of fun ways to prepare for this,” said Weintraut, which includes Quizlet Live games to memorize which author goes with which book title, student-created trivia on story details and more.
Weintraut says while obviously the win is great for the kids and school to celebrate, she’s happy that more students are continuing to get involved.
“I’m so excited about the win, but I’m more excited that we were able to have fun conversations about books and excite the kids about reading,” said Weintraut. “This is about exposing kids to a variety of genres of books and having fruitful conversations about reading and inspiring kids to pick up a book and read. That’s what I find more fulfilling.”