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Battle of Books right up enrichment teacher's alley

Donna Eischeid says she is always looking for ways to get students interested in reading

February 02, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Pangborn Elementary School teacher Donna Eischeid oversees a group of fourth- and fifth-graders Thursday as they plan for an upcoming Battle of the Books event. Students, are clockwise: Hannah Zeger, Arianna Dejesus, Nina Smith, Faith Osuji, and Jazzman Gary. Also at the table were Gina Beckwith and Melody Shockey.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

The Battle of the Books is a reading competition that Donna Eischeid can get excited about.

The enrichment teacher at Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown said she is always looking for ways to get her students interested in reading.

“I really like to promote reading, which this does. It’s right up my alley,” Eischeid said.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Washington County Free Library’s program, which was started by librarians Donna Parks and Jeff Ridgeway in 1986.

The program has evolved over the years, but the goal remains the same — to pair children with books, according to the library’s website.

The friendly competition is open to fourth- to sixth-grade students, with up to eight children per team.

The groups choose team names and colors, and usually create a T-shirt for their team.

The competition last year added two creative projects — making a board game based on the events and characters in one or more of the books, or making a DVD recording of a dramatization of a scene from one of the books.

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For eight of the nine years she’s been at Pangborn, Eischeid has been the manager for one of the school’s teams. This year, Eischeid said she was “very fortunate” to have a large group of parent volunteers, with four parents serving as managers for the school’s three teams of 22 students.

Their help allows Eischeid to assist the team managers as they prepare the students for the Saturday, March 3, competition. That event is a written competition between this year’s 16 teams. The top eight teams move on to an oral competition two weeks later.

The managers receive a list of 20 books in early November. Students will answer questions about the books at the competition.

The Pangborn teams meet once a week for an hour after school, practicing in mock battles and answering questions team managers pose to prepare students.

“It gives them exposure to books they would have never read. They have to know the books well,” Eischeid said.

The students also need to be able to match up the author with the book.

Each team decides how to divide up the reading. Time constraints generally make it difficult for a student to read all the books, Eischeid said.

She recommends that each student pick four to five books for which they will be “the book expert.” They should read those books several times for comprehension and details, she said.

Team success isn’t dependent just on reading, but also on cooperation, she said.

“It’s not about you all the time. You have to help your team to be successful at the competition,” Eischeid said. “Learning to work with a team is a skill we all need.”

When last year’s fifth-graders were asked to write about the highlight of their school year, one of

Eischeid’s team members wrote about her Battle of the Books experience.

“That thrilled me,” Eischeid said.

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