What motivates students to sprint into school at 7 a.m. – an hour early – on a cold Wednesday morning at St. Edward the Confessor School in Dana Point?
It’s their weekly meeting of the Battle of the Books (BOB), a voluntary nationwide academic program for fourth and fifth graders.
ST. SERRA CATHOLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ENGAGE IN A RECENT BATTLE OF THE BOOKS MEETING. PHOTO BY SPENCER GRANT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
ST. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR’S BATTLE OF THE BOOKS COORDINATOR CATHERINE WADMAN GREETS STUDENTS.
In a room with “Slide into Winter with a Good Book” written on the door, they gather in groups over free form soft furniture to answer questions about the books they’ve been reading. They cover many genres including such challenging subjects as custody battles and death.
BOB involves local schools, four of which are Catholic schools: St. Edward the Confessor School in Dana Point, St. Junipero Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Basilica School in San Juan Capistrano and St. Anne School in Laguna Niguel.
Administrators at each school compile the BOB booklists.
At their lively weekly extracurricular meetings, St. Edward students and volunteers – many of whom are parents – discuss and analyze the 20 age-appropriate books they have read over seven months.
It’s all in preparation for a “Jeopardy- style” tournament which will be held on March 28, an academic meet for all the schools, hosted by St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. During each round, teams will be quizzed on the books they have read, with the top scorers moving up the ladder to the finals.
Tournament questions require teams to be able to recall specific information from books read. An example might be:
In which book is there a yellow rubber dinghy?
Answer: “Adventures with Waffles” by Maria Parr.
St. Serra Catholic School librarian Sandy Supple said BOB teaches students how to perform in a trivia battle and also how to be a gracious loser if they don’t win. BOB is not only an academic book club meant to foster a lifetime love of reading. It’s also fun.
“I love it so much,” said sixth grader Jack Piazza, who competed for two years and now volunteers. “I want to help in any way I can.”
His sister Cara, a fourth grader, agreed.
“BOB is fun and exciting,” she said. “You get to read books that you never got to read before. It challenges you.”
School administrators concur.
Ellen Burrola, assistant principal at St. Serra, said BOB students benefit from the knowledge and enjoyment of reading and sharing good books with their classmates while competing with peers.
“The school benefits by promoting reading enjoyment among its students and strengthening its curriculum goals,” she said.
St. Edward’s principal Tom Waszak added, “BOB supports one of the most important activities at our school – reading, which is critical for learning. Everything we do as educators, teachers and parents to promote reading lays the foundation for personal growth, academic success, mental health and wellness.”
Mission Basilica School principal Alycia Beresford said she attributes additional benefits to BOB.
“It allows exposure to different kinds of books,’ she said, “and teaches students about different cultures and
St. Edward’s BOB coordinator Catherine Wadman said her goal is to grow lifetime readers.
“If I could instill a love of reading in just one child, I’m happy,” she said. St. Serra BOB coordinator, Deanna DeRosa-Coale, agreed.
“I believe we are changing lives, one book at a time.”