* UPDATE: The district winners are Stonewyck, first place; Whispering Oak, second place; and Dr. Phillips, third place.
Students in third, fourth and fifth grades at Dillard Street Elementary School have been preparing for the Battle of the Books competition since last summer, and the team was determined based on the participants’ knowledge of the books they read. Representing DSES are Jameson Becker, Zoe Cooper, Faith Stump, Abigail Estrada and Cadence Barber, and alternate Crew Wooton.
The Dillard team was one of 17 West Learning Community schools to participate in the areawide competition and one of two to qualify for the district round. The other was Whispering Oak Elementary.
“We were very proud to say our kiddos are some of those who get to move on,” said Angie Farley, the school’s intervention specialist and one of the Battle of the Books coaches.
She and fourth-grade teacher Dinara Metova are coaching the students in the program, which is back at Dillard after a multi-year hiatus.
Farley said the participants have worked hard for this opportunity and took their reading seriously. Students in third, fourth and fifth grades started last summer with a list of 15 Sunshine State Young Readers Awards books. It wasn’t mandatory to read all 15 but was encouraged, Farley said.
“Once they have read their books, we have a small in-house competition to see who can officially join our Battle of the Books team that goes to district,” she said.
To keep the reading task from seeming so daunting, the coaches gave separate deadlines for reading five books and then 10 and then 15.
“They’ve worked really hard to meet these goals,” Farley said. “We also ask that they take AR tests to make sure they read and comprehend the books.”
The students who qualified for the team have been meeting with their coaches twice a week before school since October.
“It’s been a big commitment,” Farley said of the students and their participation.
The areawide competition was multiple choice, so team members came up with questions to ask each other during practice. They engaged in different battles to test their knowledge of the books.
The district competition has 30 open-ended questions, and the students have 20 seconds to respond.
“We have switched to asking them open-ended questions and given them that 20 seconds,” Farley said. “They can collaborate, but only the team captain can speak. It’s quite a competitive process that we’ve put them through to get them ready for this battle.”
The winner of this week’s district competition will be the team with the highest points in three semifinal battles.
The district Battle of the Books was set to take place Wednesday, April 18, after press time, at Winter Park High School with nine other teams: Whispering Oak, Dr. Phillips, Lake Como, Moss Park, Stonewyck, Castle Creek, Dommerich, Audubon Park and Lake Gem.
Three other schools in West Orange County also took part in the areawide competition: Keene’s Crossing, Lake Whitney and Windermere elementaries.
“We’re just proud as can be that they’ve worked this hard and come this far,” Farley said.