Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 5:35 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Students bound for finals

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Months and pages of reading paid off for southern peninsula teams participating in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Battle of the Books:

• Chapman School's seventh- and eighth-grade team of Colleen McDougal, Alyssa Nehren-Rawls, Anna Johnson, Heather Harrington and Ashley Gentry, coached by Chris Crum, took third place;

• Homer Middle School's seventh- and eighth-grade team of Marshal Fuller, Aurora Waclawski, Chloe Loop, Nolan Bunting and mascot Michael Romanko, coached by Kristin Metz, took fourth place;

• West Homer Elementary School's fifth- and sixth-grade team of Andie Sonnen, Clark Bolin, Dakota Harris and alternatives Brenna McCarron and Anna Marie Sitenga, coached by Shirlie Gribble, took second place;

• Susan B. English's fifth- and sixth-grade team of Sam Scribner and Sage Stanish, coached by Mary Montgomery, took fourth place;

• Homer Connections third- and fourth-grade team of Cameron Blaine, Ian Cambridge, Amanda Cooley and Jadzia Thomas, coached by Janet Szajkowski, took second place;

• West Homer Elementary School's third- and fourth-grade team of Daisy Kettle, Audrey Wallace, James Rogers and alternate Raychel Gerald, coached by Lyn Maslow, made it all the way to first place and will compete in the state championship March 1.

Books required for reading numbered from 13-15, depending on the grade level. Students began reading in October.

"We had about 25 kids that spent their lunches reading the books, talking about the books and doing practice games," said Maslow of preparations of West Homer's third- and fourth-grade team. "Then at the very end we had to pick four students that would represent us in the district."

A set of questions on the reading material guides the competition. Top-scoring teams move to a final round of competition to determine first, second, third and fourth place within the district. The winners in that portion of the event continue on to state.

"It was fun to get on the team," said Audrey Wallace, who has two years of battle experience. "And its fun when you get the correct answer."

Daisy described her Battle of the Books experience as "awesome." She particularly enjoys some, although not all, of the assigned books.

"They like winning," Maslow said of her team.

Between now and March 1, the WHES third- and fourth-grade team will go back over the books, paying special attention to questions they missed during the district competition. They also will make up new questions to test themselves and focus on details and "getting down into the nitty gritty," said Maslow.

Bob VanDerWege, principal at Tustumena School has organized the district meet for 15 years.

The Alaska Association of School Librarians selects the books, prepares the questions used in competition and organizes the state meet. The subject matter of the required reading is a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, with at least one Alaska book and some titles from previous years.

"The initial list of books for next year will be selected this coming weekend," VanDerWege told the Homer News Tuesday. "It's a temporary list until about September or October when the state librarian board finalizes it."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.