How Do You BOB?: Librarians, Parents Share the Ways They’re Celebrating Battle of the Kids’ Books

With just a few weeks to go until the first Battle of the Kids’ Books (BOB) match on March 9, schools, parent groups, and librarians across the country are gearing up for this year’s March Madness–style tournament. Check out a few examples of how BOB has become a fun, educational, and community-building event.
CelebrateBoB_bigWith just a few weeks to go until the first Battle of the Kids’ Books (BOB) match on March 9, schools, parent groups, and librarians across the country are gearing up for this year’s March Madness–style tournament. The following are a few examples of how BOB is being celebrated as a fun, educational, and community-building event. Christina Keasler, tween librarian at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Illinois, stumbled upon BOB through Pinterest. Building upon an already established relationship with the local independent bookstore, The Bookstore, Keasler has set up a Mock BOB tournament for the fourth to eighth graders in her community. Students can submit their bracket predictions from March 1–8 for the chance to win a gift certificate for the bookstore. Also, participants can post reviews of the contenders on the library website, receiving candy each time they do. Kentucky library media specialist Sherri Powers inherited BOB from her predecessor and has kept the ball rolling at Flaherty Elementary School, though she’s tweaked aspects of the one-on-one elimination tournament and made it her own. Instead of continuing the Quiz Bowl–like format of her school’s previous celebrations, she has devised a unique point system. First, because she teaches primary grades, Powers modified the bracket to include only the seven middle grade titles (including Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming and Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover). Each contender’s points will be allotted according to three categories: how many kids score 80 percent or higher on its Accelerated Reader quiz, circulation statistics, and how many votes it receives via an Edmodo account she’s created. Library media specialist Sherri Powers her BOB bracket for middle grade students at Flaherty Elementary School, KY.

Library media specialist Sherri Powers modified her BOB contenders for middle grade students at Flaherty Elementary School, KY.

The media specialist has partnered with homeroom teachers in her school, and the class with the most points will receive a pizza party. In addition to the 10–15 copies that she has of each contender in the school library, most of the teachers have a few extra books in their classroom libraries. What Powers appreciates most about the project is the ability to connect with other educators via social media, sharing and receiving resources and book recommendations on Twitter and other online platforms. Three-year BOB veteran Donna Cook, library director at Central High School in Pollock, TX, continually comes back for more because the competition gets teens to not only talk about books but actually read them. In town where basketball rules, the high school students are especially drawn by the March Madness model. “They like the competition aspect of it. They also like the ability to make predictions. High school kids don’t pay too much attention to authors generally, but for BOB they spend a minute or two thinking about the judges as they’re announced, trying to analyze the type of genres they write and therefore might lean toward.” A pizza party for participants and their friends are also added bonuses. This year, Cook has incorporated several new tweaks that have upped the ante at Central High. Now a 1:1 school, the high school has given each student a Chrome Book, and the librarian wasted no time in using the technology now at her disposal. With the help of her school’s tech team, she’s created BOB-related Google Documents in which the teens can submit their brackets and reviews through their devices. “Many people thought that once we implemented the Chrome Books, the library would become a wasteland. But we use events like these to make a commotion around reading,” Cook says. She and her team promote participation in BOB during English classes and morning announcement and have begun toying with the idea of getting teachers to create brackets of their own. Because of BOB’s popularity and the library’s limited amount of copies, Cook has had to figure out alternative ways for students to participate. Going as far as checking out books from the local public library and university, Cook has also shortened the checkout period for the BOB titles. “But we're [still] out of copies. So, we have told the students they can qualify for predictions and the tournament by reading one of the winners from the past years (including Hunger Games and Okay for Now). Now we have more kids who can ‘play the game’ with us,” she shares. Even parents are joining in the BOB fun. A few years ago, Iowan Kristine Anderson and two other friends started reading and participating in BOB. They created a Facebook group to post reviews of the contenders and discuss the author judge's choices. As their children grew old enough to read the books, the parents began sharing and reading with them. This year, the original three, now living in different parts of the country, opened up the group to their Facebook friends, branching out to include 15 moms across the United States, with half of them reading the BOB contenders with their children. The newest members have even started reading previous BOB competitors. “We thought that it would be a fun activity to do together and use in order to stay in touch in a way that is totally different. This list gives us more to discuss, instead of the usual Best Books of the Year lists,” says Anderson. And of course, a BOB tournament wouldn’t be complete without the Penguin Young Readers event, in which editors and designers hash it out over who gets to take home the papier mâché trophy filled with candy. As you can see below, the competition has already begun heating up.

Other ideas for Celebrating BOB:

Download 2015 BOB Brackets to keep track of winners. Download 2015 Battle Plan as a fun visual for your library. Fill out your predictions before March 9 for a chance to win a prize. Create Book Displays. Check out the Provo City Library’s awesome display. Participate in the Undead Poll (February 25–March 8), in which fans can vote for their favorite contenders. The book that receives the most votes will resurrect from the dead to compete in the final round. Comment, Tweet, Blog and you might make it on the Peanut Gallery. The event’s hashtag is #sljbob.

See also: Tips for Creating a “Mock BoB” | SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books

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