EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – It was a true war of words at the Scarsdale Middle School over the weekend, as some of the best and brightest in the county came together for the inaugural Westchester Library System’s Battle of the Books, where the Bronxville “Bright Broncos,” prevailed over several other library teams.
In an effort to promote and cultivate a love of literature in children from a young age, more than a dozen local libraries – spearheaded by Elizabeth Anastasi in Peekskill – organized the Battle of the Books, where children, separated into teen and children’s divisions, read five assigned books and was then quizzed in a double-elimination tournament.
In Eastchester, local teams of students have been hard at work training for months, complete with weekly practices where they covered the material and worked on team cohesion. Children’s librarian Jonathan Heifetz, who served as coach for the team, said that he’s received immediate feedback from parents who said that their kids have already benefited from the program.
“We have a core group of 10 students that come to our library, so what we did was bring together a group of avid readers, who have formed a great friendship. One mom was pleased that it encouraged her son to read more, while another was glad her daughter found friends with similar interests,” he said.
At the Battle of the Books, teams were broken off into teen and children’s divisions, and then asked 25 questions about the literature that were designed by Westchester County librarians. Teams of as many as six students would then have the chance to buzz in, with a 10 second window to confer with their team.
In all, 10 teams competed in the children’s bracket, while nine teams showed up for the teen division. Due to the success of the inaugural Battle of the Books, Heifetz said he believes that the event will only become more popular due to word of mouth.
At the end of the day, the team from Bronxville was the last group standing in the children’s division, while the Ossining Public Library “Erudites” topped the teen grouping. Neither Bronxville librarian Erin Schirota nor Anastasi could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
“This is something that’s new to Westchester, but it’s been done in other places before; but we did this one all on our own. We picked the books we wanted, created the competition ourselves and came up with the entire system,” he said. “Less than half the libraries in Westchester competed, so we’re hoping that it just continues to grow.”
Although they didn’t come out on top like their neighbors in Bronxville, the Eastchester squad will be back next year, hopefully with a teen team to represent the library as well.
“We didn’t win, but the moment we were knocked out, the kids pretty quickly started strategizing about how to do better next year,” Heifetz said. “I didn’t think it would be this easy to recruit kids, but their enthusiasm was so far above my expectations, so I was happy with the outcome.”
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