A growing program that's building literacy capacity and culture in Rocky View Schools (RVS) was recognized this week by the Board of Trustees as an Exemplary Practice in the jurisdiction.  

Three teachers who help organize the Battle of the Books were presented with certificates at the RVS School Board meeting on Thursday.  Erica Legh, a teacher from Meadowbrook School in Airdrie, along with Learning Commons Facilitator at East Lake School in Chestermere Nancy Gunn and the East Lake's Assistant Principal Leslie Waite presented information on the initiative to the Board.

The second annual Battle of the Books was held at the RVS Education Centre in Airdrie on February 28th of this year  15 teams of middle school students representing 11 schools in RVS faced off in round-robin style "battles" to determine which team had the strongest understanding of 16 pre-selected fiction and non-fiction books.  The Battle of the Books challenges students to think beyond the facts and demonstrate their understanding of the embedded themes and plot twists of each novel.  It also gives students the chance to meet real, live authors.  This year, Dave Poulsen, the author of several Young Adult novels, was the special guest at the event.

Leslie Waite from East Lake School said that this year close to 300 students started out in the battle, which was eventually whittled down to the 15 teams of six.  Eventually, she expects the battle to involve many more RVS students and become a division-wide initiative.

"We just hope it grows and grows and grows and that we have all 24 of our middle schools in Rocky View participating, and all of our elementary and all of our high schools.  We're quite proud of the initiative and what it brings to the kids."

What it does for the kids, says Waite, is develop confidence.  "We have little people who come and say, 'I'm not sure I can be on a team 'cause I don't read well,' and we're like, 'of course you can be on a team, come on, we'll support you, we'll give you all the support you need,' and, at the end of the day, they see themselves as readers and for me, that's the magic.  We've opened this up to every child."

Waite is excited about the possibility of the Battle of the Books expanding in future years.  "It's like having a giant book club," she says.  "Even on the day all the middle schools were here kids from different schools were talking about the books they were reading.  Which was their favourite, which one didn't they enjoy?  Just to hear them talking about books, it gave them a common language.  I think giving some commonality in the division, where we're all working towards the goal of literature, and here's one way to do it."  


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