Young Readers to Do ‘Battle’ at Gannon University

Posted: February 24, 2017

This is the week when fans everywhere are contemplating how to fill out their brackets. Will Fiction Addiction make the Final Eight? Can Literally Lit be a bracket buster? How about the Titans of Text? This could be their year to go all the way.

They are among the teams from 29 high schools and 19 middle schools from Crawford, Erie and Warren counties that will participate in the fourth Battle of the Books at Gannon University on Friday, March 3, a tournament-style competition where reading is more important than reading defenses. More than 500 students are expected to compete.

Teams compete head-to-head and earn points for correct answers to questions about the 24 books they were assigned to read this year. Some questions were compiled by students in Gannon University's School of Education, and though the University is on spring break during the competition, students who remain on or near campus will man the registration tables, ask the questions and keep score.

Teams compete for prizes and pride; they take the competition very seriously. "We have three reading teams-36 kids," said Nicole Fitch, a librarian at North East High School, who organized the competition. "That might be more than are on the football team," she said.

Fitch modeled the Battle on a competition that North East High School (nickname: NERDs, North East Reading Divas) attended in the past. The books she suggested range widely in genre, from young adult fiction to fantasy and mystery. Some were drawn from the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards program list and others were more personal.

One is Patrick Ness' "A Monster Calls," which was the source for a motion picture starring Sigourney Weaver that was released in December. "It's a tremendous book that deals with a difficult subject, a parent's terminal illness," Fitch said. "I cried my eyes out when I read it."

There will be tears at the Battle, too-tears of joy and of disappointment, but win or lose, the participating students experience the joy of reading, a joy that Fitch sees as a still vital force. "When people say students don't read, that's false, I think they're reading more than ever. If you get things into their hands, they'll read."