A team of five students crouched in their velvet red seats, anxiously waiting to hear the results from the annual Battle of the Books competition. The freshmen had spent the last seven months reading 15 literary works and studying over 4,000-notecards-worth of questions.
With a total of 65 points, students from the Winter Park High School Ninth Grade Center took sixth place.
The Dr. Phillips High School media center opened its doors to over 100 students the morning of March 3 for the competition. Each of the 17 public high schools in Orange County sent a team of students, hoping they would develop a greater love for reading through the process.
The teens huddled alongside their groupmates, drilling through flashcards of information before the competition. After one more review of the 15 literary works on the Florida Teens Read list, they were ready to battle for the title of champion in book knowledge.
Throughout the day, the Winter Park Wildcats chanted: “We’re number one, not two, not three, not four. We’re going to win, not lose, not tie the score. Go Wildcats!”
Freshman Alexandrya Kozlowski, 14, served as the team captain for Winter Park High School. She said working with four teammates taught her the importance of collaboration and patience.
“We’re in this together; if we mess up, we have each other’s backs,” Kozlowski said. “You can’t be mad about the little things.”
Founded by the Orange County Association of Educational Media, Battle of the Books has enticed teenagers by adding a competitive edge to reading for over 20 years. Its success in middle schools prompted Orange County Public Schools to expand the competition, inviting elementary and high schools to host their own Battle of the Books.
Ginger Carter, an OCAEM board member and the Winter Park High School media specialist, has helped organize Battle of the Books for over 15 years. Last March, Carter’s team of freshmen won the first place trophy, which is proudly displayed in her office at Winter Park High School.
The winner of this year’s competition was Timber Creek High School. After completing four rounds of 40 questions, the Timber Creek Wolves scored a total of 88 points and continued on to the final round. Falling 23 points below the Wolves, Carter’s team of students placed sixth out of 17 schools. Each of the teams were quizzed competition-style on trivia tied to the Florida Teens Read list novels.
Although a second trophy would have made a nice addition to her office, Carter said the main purpose of Battle of the Books is to encourage teens to read. She said her students enjoyed being surrounded by others who shared their passion for books.
“We had a marvelous time meeting other readers just like us and talking about books,” Carter said.
The final round between Timber Creek High School and West Orange High School was administered by Dr. Barbara M. Jenkins, the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools. She applauded the students for their diligent work and concerted effort.
“Part of what we want to continue to push with our students is this whole notion that ‘smart’ really is ‘cool,’” Jenkins said.
With the help of Orange County media specialists and instructional technologists, the second high school rendition of Battle of Books was able to take place.
Daniela Mitchell has served as the director of instructional technology and library media for Orange County Public Schools since June 2015. She said Battle of Books blends work with fun, making it a unique experience for students.
“They get an opportunity to showcase their skills and what they’ve read,” Mitchell said. “It’s a way to get lost in the imaginary world of reading.”