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Battle of the Books brewing
Shiloh Point Elementary students, from left, Emma Davies, Libby Nesbitt, Maddie Davies and Brigitt Elueder discuss an answer Tuesday during the school’s Battle of the Books. The competion leads up to the countywide event in May. - photo by Autumn Vetter

There was a lot of whispering Tuesday afternoon at Shiloh Point Elementary.

A head of hot pink curls would bounce out of her seat and whisper something to another girl after each question.

But the strategy worked for the four third-graders, as their team, the Pink Poodles, took third place in the school’s annual Battle of the Books.

The Reading Warriors came in first place, followed by the Peregrine Falcons in the competition which quizzes students on 20 books.

“Any program where you can get children excited about literature and reading is something that we can’t say no to, and this program keeps on growing,” said Tanya Cheeves, the teacher who organized it, which has grown exponentially since its first year in 2010.

The fourth- and fifth-grade competition continues today at the school, where students will tackle questions from 30 books.

Both competitions lead up to the countywide Battle of the Books on May 8, when the top two teams from eight elementary schools will compete at Haw Creek.

The first event, Cheeves said, was contained to Shiloh Point. It grew last year to include Haw Creek.

This year, Chestatee, Daves Creek, Matt, Settles Bridge, Vickery Creek and Cumming elementary schools will also be competing.

At Shiloh Point alone, nearly 300 students take part, Cheeves said.

“It started out smaller, but they’re already forming teams for next year. It’s exciting to see that and their excitement is contagious,” she said. “Already the second-graders are stopping me saying, ‘When can we join?”

For Samantha Macaluso on the Rapid Readers team, the appeal is that “you get to work as a team.” Memorizing the names of the authors was the biggest challenge, but she said that’s important “so you can learn more things.”

The students are responsible for reading at least half of the books in the battle. Luke Kimel on the Reading Wizards read a dozen.

“I thought it would be good for me,” he said of the competition. “I’m doing something for the team.”

The questions are mostly memory based, focusing on key characters, plots and events. During the monthly meetings, Cheeves said there are deeper discussions to encourage comprehension.

To get through the more challenging books, Cheeves also organized movie nights, where students got to watch the film versions as a reward.

Each team competed in several battles, with the top three teams decided by cumulative scores. Though they didn’t place, Christian Reaume said he was surprised with his team’s performance.

“We weren’t expecting it, but we’re proud of ourselves,” he said of the the Reading Wizards. “I think it was fun to hang out with your friends and be able to read books and enjoy it.”