This week we had our first meeting of this year’s Battle of the Books Team. In Battle of the Books, teams of students compete against each other to see who can answer the most questions correctly on the pre-selected books.
The books that we use are the fifteen Sunshine State books that our state Library Association selects each year. Our team is open to 3rd through 5th graders who have read all of the books.
We have had a team at my school for almost ten years. There is no limit to the number of students on the team, but only six can actually compete in the competition. Usually we have fairly small teams, with six to ten students.
This year I must admit that I was getting nervous. As the sign-up time opened up, the sheet on the desk in the Media Center remained blank. Even when we enlisted the help of classroom teachers to chat with their students about it, we found that there were very few students, school-wide, who had read even a handful of this year’s Sunshine State Books.
Although taken aback, I must admit to not being shocked. Research by the National Literacy Trust found that in 2023 less than 43% of children under 18 read for pleasure. That statistic is down from a high of 58% in 2016. My own experiences with parents and fellow teachers, supports that getting kids to read for pleasure is becoming harder and harder.
Luckily, we ultimately recruited enough students to seat a team! We did have to adjust our requirement that the team members read all fifteen Sunshine State Books, and therefore, we are adjusting our approach to preparing for the competition. We also have a young team in the sense that we have more 3rd graders than 4th and 5th. But the students we do have on the team are passionate, enthusiastic, and committed.
Perhaps this is, as they say in the NFL, our building year.