Canadian, Chinese internationals book trophies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

They came, they read, they conquered. Canadian International School was celebrating this week after winning the secondary schools division of the Battle of the Books contest.

Chinese International School edged past Kennedy School to claim the top prize in the primary school category.

Canadian International School librarian Joanne Jalsevac said the victory in only their second year of competition was just rewards after months of hard reading.

'It was a close battle and we are very excited about our win. The kids have been reading since September and from January we have been going over the books on a regular basis. They worked very hard for it and we are very proud,' Ms Jalsevac said.

Battle of the Books started as a radio programme in Chicago in the 1930s and evolved into a reading-incentive programme for schools across the United States.

Bryant McEntire, the librarian at French International School, brought the idea to Hong Kong when he moved here from his native North Carolina in 2000 to take up the librarian's job at Christian Alliance P.C. Lau Memorial International School. That first year only one school, CAIS, took part.

The programme has since grown to involve 20 international and English Schools Foundation schools this year.

Organising committee member and HKUGA College librarian Janet Mann said they hoped to involve local schools in next year's event.

'This year we have attracted new entrants like Hong Lok Yuen International School. We have invited local schools to come and get a feel for the event and we hope they will participate next year. We have reduced the number of titles this year just to get them going,' Ms Mann said.

'It is a good way to get children reading what they might otherwise not read. We try to give a wide range of genres and include some Asian titles to make a connection for the students. This year we choose Archer's Quest because the author Linda Park came to visit. It gives the kids something to bounce off.'

Contestants were given a list of 22 books for primary students and 27 books for secondary students to read between the team. The teams in each division face off over 12 rounds of questioning and the group with the highest score at the end wins.

Kate Brashear, 11, of Chinese International School, said her team spent three months burying their noses in books in preparation for the event. 'It makes you read all the way through,' said Kate, a self-confessed skim reader. 'I used to just absorb the book, but here we have to pay more attention.'

Kennedy School pupil Dominic Di Cicco, 10, said it took more than brains to emerge victorious.

'There is a lot of pressure. Everyone is watching you. Normally when I am watching the quiz I have all the answers but when I am on stage I forget them all,' Dominic said.

But he lamented over the gender ratio of the contestants, skewed heavily in favour of girls.

'Most boys play football,' he said, 'and they really don't read all that much.'