Midcoast students gathered for the 2019 Battle of the Books. Contributed / Woolwich Central School

For months, the competitors have trained for battle. They’ve put in hours at home and drilled with their teams at school. Some of them have even skipped recess.

On Thursday evening, the most committed young readers from Midcoast elementary schools will convene at Woolwich Central School to compete in the 25th annual Battle of the Books, a gameshow-style reading competition.

“It is a celebration of reading in a fun, trivia competition format,” said Woolwich Central School Librarian Abigail Luchies, one of the event’s organizers. “We love it because it’s a way to build enthusiasm around reading.”

Twenty-two teams of up to four fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from RSU 1 elementary schools, West Bath School and Georgetown Central School will aim to correctly answer 40 questions about books from the 2021-2022 Maine Student Book Award reading list, according to Luchies. In order to win the competition, teams will have to flex their knowledge of everything from non-fiction to fantasy.

“It’s all different kinds of genres,” Woolwich fifth-grader Lilian Newman said of the reading list. “It just helps me step outside my comfort zone when it comes to reading.”

Newman, who has read about 17 of the competition’s 32 books, said she prefers realistic fiction. Yet in order to ensure someone on her team has read each book, she’s had to broaden her reach to include genres like science fiction.


Battle of the Books is an especially valuable opportunity for non-athletes, who often miss out on the chance to compete on a team, said Susie Morissette, an integrated reading specialist at Georgetown Central School.

“Not every child is sports-oriented,” said Morissette, who helped organize the event. “I think this is a really great activity for all kids because they’re all on an even playing field. Everybody has the opportunity to read all of these books.”

Georgetown’s six readers began discussing the reading list and practicing questions in December, according to Morissette. While students can sometimes be reluctant to give up lunch with their friends in the cafeteria, she said, they’re always enthusiastic when things get competitive at the team’s once-a-week meetings.

“It’s so fun to watch them get so excited,” Morisette said. “They almost can’t contain themselves when we’re practicing. They just scream answers.”

Thursday’s event, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m., will mark the competition’s return to an in-person format after the pandemic shuttered the 2020 edition and pushed the 2021 battle online. Organizers are looking forward the hushed frenzy of students huddling to come up with their answers.

“We haven’t been able to do these things,” Luchies said. “Getting the community back in the building hasn’t happened a lot, and when it does it’s really special.”

The event’s champions will earn $10 gift certificates to Bath’s Mockingbird Bookshop, but no one will leave empty-handed; all other competitors will earn $5 certificates.

“Every kid there is a winner,” Luchies said. “Hopefully they go and buy next year’s books.”

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