Ruidoso represents at Battle of the Books

By Todd Fuqua

Students from White Mountain Elementary and Ruidoso Middle School's Battle of the Books teams meet with author Caroline Starr Rose, front and center, at the regional Battle of the Books competition, April 28, at Los Lunas High School. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

LOS LUNAS – For the middle and elementary school students at this year’s regional Battle of the Books competition at Los Lunas High School, April 28, it was more than a tournament celebrating reading and literacy.

Ruidoso students meet in the cafeteria at Los Lunas High School, April 28, during the regional Battle of the Books competition. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

This was like “Book Con 2018.”

“They get to see live authors, it’s not just in theory anymore,” said White Mountain Elementary teacher James Cantu, who was one of the sponsors for Ruidoso at the event. “These are the people who actually wrote the books that they read. When they announced this year’s featured author, she got a standing ovation from three or four groups of elementary students. Talk about connecting with the material!”

Among the authors in attendance was Caroline Starr Rose, whose book “May B: A Novel” is among the 20 books for elementary students to read next year.

White Mountain Elementary student Lily Lewis, right, was one of several Ruidoso kids that met with author Caroline Starr Rose and had their shirts signed, April 28, at the regional Battle of the Books competition in Los Lunas. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

She was treated like a superstar at Los Lunas, where students lined up to meet her and get an autograph.

That’s exactly what a number of Ruidoso students did, allowing Rose to sign their team shirts.

“Who thought these kids would get this excited about authors or books?” Cantu mused. “For the love of reading, that’s what this is all about. I’m loving the competitive spirit that goes with it. It’s a positive vibe.”

The “battle” of “Battle of the Books” refers to the Knowledge Bowl-like questioning, in which students demonstrate their knowledge of the 15-20 books they’ve read over the course of the school year.

White Mountain Elementary fifth-grader Gwen Fuqua, left, was selected as captain of her Battle of the Books team, April 28, during regional competition at Los Lunas High School. Fuqua was one of several Ruidoso students to be named captain. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

Each team is asked a specific content-based question, then required to tell which book – and which author – that fact goes with.

A team can also steal points if the other team doesn’t answer the question correctly.

While Ruidoso had 13 students at this year’s competition, the team members were assigned to teams that had students from all across the state.

That meant there were times when some Ruidoso students were facing off against their classmates in some rounds.

In the end, only one Ruidoso student – seventh grader Cori Cox – was on a team that placed, taking third.

This year’s regional Battle of the Book competition at Los Lunas High School, April 28, was so large, the meeting had to be moved from the auditorium to the gym. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

But there were a lot more points scored by local students, and Cantu said the level of competition overall had increased.

Partly, that’s because there were a lot more students, period. So many that the ceremonies were held in the Los Lunas gym, rather than the auditorium as it had been last year.

“We had between 40 and 50 more than last year, so we had more than 340 kids here,” said Sidney Olivas, a media specialist for Los Lunas Schools. “That’s about 10 more teams. The kids were excited. They love the books and they love reading.”

Not only did they read quite a bit, they were more prepared for what the competition would bring.

Ruidoso School Board president Luther Light, left, was one of three Ruidoso administrators and educators pressed into service as vounteer timers or facilitators during the regional Battle of the Books competition, April 28, at Los Lunas High School. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

“I read all 20 books, but they’re all great and fun to read,” Cox said. “It was really exciting to get a medal, since I wasn’t sure what to expect last year. This year, I understood everything better and knew what to do.”

Now supported by an SIG grant, the Battle of the Books program in Ruidoso now has more institutional support, but it also means there’s more kids to coordinate and motivate to read.

The entire Battle of the Books team gathers with teachers Amanda Owens and James Cantu after this year’s regional competition at Los Lunas High School, April 28. (Photo by Todd Fuqua)

“There’s more to do to make sure these kids are on task and ready for this,” Cantu said. “The good news was, from what I saw, every child was having fun and felt they represented themselves well.”

Lists for next year’s Battle of the Books have already been released for the elementary and middle school levels. Click on the previous links to see the lists. You can also purchase these books if you’d like to donate them to the school of your choice.

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