Merced area high schoolers to compete in “Battle of Books”

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 14, 2014 

Students at local high schools have many chances to compete for prizes. A contest March 7 will test their mettle as dedicated readers.

The Merced Union High School District’s Battle of the Books requires students to read 20 titles and answer trivia questions to win a district trophy. The books can be read on e-readers or in print, said Julie Cook, Buhach Colony High School librarian.

The school libraries “offer a blend of print and digital materials,” Cook said. “The event has grown considerably over the years and is attended by students, staff, parents, community and board members. It also has evolved from a paper-driven program to a high-tech one.”

Librarians at Merced, El Capitan, Golden Valley, Atwater, Buhach Colony and Livingston high schools recently made a presentation at a state conference on the Battle of the Books as well as use of Google Apps for Education, a free online suite of productivity and collaboration tools to streamline and simplify a successful literacy program. It allow users to easily share and collaborate on documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

Jorge Arteaga, district director of information services, said the Battle of the Books has been enhanced by the use of technology, particularly Google Apps for Education, which provides a real-time scoreboard that encourages teams to maintain their A-game throughout each round.

Tony Doyle, librarian at El Capitan High School, said the district’s libraries offer resources in both print and electronic format to meet the diverse and changing needs of students. E-books make up a larger part of library collections each year, he said.

Cook said more than 100 participants are reading for the Battle of the Books competition at Buhach Colony High School, with staff and student teams of up to six members. All campuses have book clubs that help keep students accountable and interested.

Sarah Morgan, Merced High School librarian, explained how classroom teachers and teacher-librarians work together.

“The successful teacher-librarian collaborates with their teachers and administrators to provide quality lessons and rich resources for all learners,” Morgan said. “What we have done by collaborating together across campus borders is modeling the collaborative spirit to the entire district, not just individual campuses.”

Cook said the mix of print and digital books is different at each campus. The district just purchased 140,000 e-books that are predominantly nonfiction. They are accessible to all students and will help provide resources for Common Core instructional practices.

Librarians hope to help other school districts across the state start similar programs as a means to help increase literacy and encourage the integration of Google’s technology tools into other existing programs, Cook said.

All six MUHSD librarians made a presentation at the California School Library Association state conference.

Tammie Calzadillas, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services, said the librarians’ leadership has been instrumental in many of the initiatives designed to support students. Conference attendees will receive access to three years’ worth of complete digital sets of materials to jump-start their own program.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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