Battle of the Books puts young readers to a literary test

Students from three elementary schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District tested their literary knowledge Wednesday in the district's first Battle of the Books tournament.

Fourth- and fifth-graders from Sonora, Newport Heights and Eastbluff elementary schools congregated at Eastbluff's auditorium in Newport Beach to answer questions about novels they had read.

To prepare for the tournament, the students began reading novels in September from a list of 20 books selected by America's Battle of the Books, a voluntary reading incentive program designed to test students' reading comprehension skills.

Questions asked during the tournament could be based on any part of a book. Six teams (two from each school) consisting of six students apiece were given 30 seconds to answer questions like, "In what book do two children plan to leave at night on a freight train?"

The correct answer: "Ruby Holler" by Sharon Creech.

Two teams at a time faced off. If a team couldn't answer a question, the opposing team was asked a new question. Three points were given for a correct title and two points for the correct author.

Eastbluff won the final round against Newport Heights.

"This was so much fun, and it paid off practicing every Wednesday morning," said Faith Chavez, a fifth-grader and captain of the winning Eastbluff group.

To practice for the tournament during book club meetings, Faith's team created a map of where all the stories took place and a timeline for when they occurred.

"I felt pretty confident we would win," Faith said. "It's at our school, so we had a home court advantage."

Faith said she enjoyed the experience so much that she wishes she could be part of it next year.

Eastbluff Elementary previously had competed against local private schools, but this was the first time Newport-Mesa librarians collaborated to put on their own tournament, said Barbara Yoffa, librarian at Eastbluff.

Yoffa said the event hopefully will continue next year.

For now, the first-place award will be displayed in the library at Eastbluff.

priscella.vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @VegaPriscella

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