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South Valley Journal

Battle of the Books breeds bibliophiles at Blackridge

May 03, 2019 09:25AM ● By Jet Burnham

Readers collected colorful wristbands for each book they read from the booklist. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Throughout the school year, Blackridge Elementary has been buzzing about B.O.B., the American Battle of the Books, which is a comprehensive comprehension competition. Students in third through sixth grade read books from a list of 20 and then, in teams of four to five, answer specific questions about them.

“The idea is that they read four or five books and become an expert so that they know the answers to the questions on those books,” said Blackridge librarian Kristin Barkdull.

The more a student reads, the more they can help their team answer questions. 

The school competition, held in early March, is a highlight of the year. An entire day is dedicated to determining which two teams will advance to the next level of competition.

The top team from the third–fourth competition and from the fifth–sixth advance to the intra-school competition to compete against teams from nine other schools. This year, Blackridge’s Silver Scorpions advanced and took third place, and the Radioactive Pickles took seventh place in the multi-school competition.

“We always say if we have some criers at the end of the day, that’s good because they’re invested,” said Karman Schulz, PTA chairperson of B.O.B. “Our main goal is not today [competition day]. Our main goal is to have kids read books. If we have one student read one more book than they would have otherwise read, then that’s a success, and that is the end goal for our school.”

The 456 participating students this year read a total of 3,900 books. The program has grown in the three years Blackridge has been participating. While it initially attracted students who already enjoyed reading, other students began to see how fun it was. 

“We’ve seen it grow from about two teams per class to almost the whole class,” said librarian Lene Hartley, who promotes books from the reading list to students throughout the year.

Librarians reward students with a colorful wristband and candy for each book they read. Those who read all 20 books on their own get their names on the Wall of Fame and a breakfast hosted by Chick-fil-A.

“I think it's a great opportunity for students who love to read to showcase their skills through friendly competition,” said Brittany Allen, a sixth-grade teacher.

However, the competition isn’t just for avid readers.

“B.O.B. gives every student the opportunity to participate,” said Allen. “Because it's a group effort, students of all skill levels can work together to read and compete.”

Students read the books independently and work together with volunteers and librarians to practice sample questions and memorize full titles and authors’ names, which earn them additional points in their answers.

Teachers, librarians and parent volunteers all work together to run the program.

“It takes an army to run this,” said Schulz. “But we strongly feel like that amount of kids participating—and just their reading levels in general have increased substantially—and the benefit that our teachers and our students are receiving from the program itself far outweighs the amount of time put into running the program.”

Schulz said Blackridge teachers reported improved reading and comprehension levels over the last three years among students who participated. Books on the reading list, determined by the national program, span a variety of genres, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction and even a few picture books. 

“It gave my students an opportunity to dive into new genres and expand their views and knowledge on new subjects,” said Morgan Sorenson, a third-grade teacher.

“I feel like it really helps my students branch out and read books and genres that they normally wouldn't choose,” said Allen of her sixth-graders. “It opens up a whole new world to them.”

Members of the team Fabulous 5 said they enjoyed reading books such as “Shiloh,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, “Midnight Rider,” by Kat Martin and “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis.

Choosing creative team names is part of the fun of B.O.B. 

“We let the kids create their own names, and they are off the wall,” said Schulz.

Teams such as Chicken Nuggets, Squishy Pandas, The Baked Potatoes, Goldfishes, Bucking Books, and Sushicorns, dress in matching costumes or team shirts and create a team poster and cheer to promote unity.

The American Battle of the Books was introduced in the area five years ago by Becky Holdorf, librarian at Butterfield Canyon Elementary. The program has grown to 10 local elementary schools (Blackridge, Bluffdale, Butterfield Canyon, Daybreak, Herriman, Midas Creek, Rosamond, Rose Creek, Silvercrest, Southland) participating in the intra-school competition this year.

This year’s winning teams at the Intra-school level were:


3rd/4th: Book Buddies from Rose Creek


5th/6th: Pudgy Pugs from Butterfield Canyon