Can Battle of the Books instil a love of reading among K12 students?
Can Battle of the Books make reading fun again? Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Several studies suggest that the number of children who read for pleasure is on the decline.

While gadgets such as tablets and smartphones are highly popular in households worldwide, this has not necessarily translated to more reading time. In fact, research suggests the opposite to be true – the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It’s worrying, especially when there are myriad benefits associated with reading.

“There is strong evidence that reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing throughout life,” said The Reading Agency.

“There is already strong evidence to show that reading for pleasure plays a vital role in improving educational outcomes. However, in the UK, most children do not read on a daily basis and almost a third of adults don’t read for pleasure.”

Instilling a love for reading

So, how can parents and teachers encourage children to read for pleasure? Could an activity like Battle of the Books spark or rekindle a joy for reading?

For the uninitiated, Battle of the Books is a voluntary reading incentive programme in the US for students in grades 3-12. Its purpose is to encourage students to read good books and have fun while competing with peers.

Essentially, in teams, students compete head-to-head with their peers in a trivia competition based on the pre-assigned books they’ve read.

Speaking to Newberg, Antonia Crater Elementary School Principal, Troy Fisher, said: “It’s an incentive for kids to read. And it’s not just surface level reading. They really have to dig into the book. These questions are so detail oriented that they really have to know their business. That’s one thing I like.”

He added that most schools make a big deal of the school championship battle in some way or another.

“We have our final battle as an assembly in front of the school. So it really encourages the kids who might be thinking about doing it the next year and half the list of books is already out so that kids can start reading for next year,” he said.

In speaking about the battle, Fisher’s daughter, Ainsley, said:  “I like it because you get to read so many amazing books. It’s a chance to read books that you haven’t learned about yet. Some of the books I wouldn’t have even thought of reading, but they’re really good.”

Also echoing her sentiments is Ash Dodge, 13: “I joined Battle of the Books because all my friends were in it and I love to read. You get to have a nerd competition. Honestly this is my dream,” she told Berkeleyside.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Are kids reading enough non-fiction?

How some schools and companies are trying to improve child literacy