This image compilation shows the 10 shortlisted fiction books for the Red Cedar Book Awards.

SD 57 librarians keep 
Battle of the Books alive

Not even a pandemic can stop the Red Cedar Battle of the Books.

In School District No. 57, elementary students have been flipping pages in this program for at least two decades. This year, some intraschool battles happened before spring break and others were supposed to be held after the break. As well, a district-wide battle was scheduled for April 21 at Blackburn.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed plans for some of the school encounters and also for the district competition. In both scenarios, three-person teams go head-to-head against each other, answering questions about selected Red Cedar fiction books in a quiz-show format.

But, the teacher librarians who spearhead the ever-popular Battle of the Books refused to accept defeat. Instead, they put their heads together and found a way to carry on in a virtual way. First, they represented school battles in the form of a quiz sheet made accessible to Grade 5-7 students across the district.

“It turned into individual, rather than three kids working together on a team,” said Tina Cousins, a teacher librarian at Vanway Elementary and chair of the Battle of the Books organizing committee. “It was open to whoever still wanted to participate. Of course our numbers have really gone down because families are coping (with COVID-19) in their own way. At Vanway I still have about 10 students (from an original 30) that I’m meeting with once a week on Zoom. We talk about Red Cedar, we do practice questions, I read to them from the book No Fixed Address because that’s the one we were reading in school during library time.”

The next stage in the Battle of the Books – the district battle – started today (May 14) and goes until Sunday, May 17. Over the course of these four days, students will have the opportunity to answer 20 questions via an online form. Then, on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 20, all Battle of the Books participants will meet up on Zoom for a celebratory wrap-up session. Students will introduce themselves and reveal which Red Cedar book was their favourite. They’ll also receive door prizes, and prizes for their success in the district battle. Books & Company in Prince George is a generous supplier of books and gift certificates.

“We always did lots of prizes, because who doesn’t enjoy a good prize,” Cousins said with a laugh. “We’ll get prizes to the librarians and they’ll drop them off so it’s a way to culminate our Red Cedar in the best way that we can.”

All Red Cedar books are by Canadian authors. Each year, students from B.C. schools vote online for books that have made Red Cedar shortlists (fiction and non-fiction categories). The books that get the most votes receive Red Cedar Book Awards, also known as British Columbia’s Young Reader’s Choice Awards.

This year’s fiction shortlist features: No Fixed Address, by Susin Nielsen; Clara Voyant, by Rachelle Delaney; Cross Ups: Anyone’s Game, by Sylv Chiang; Crush, by Svetlana Chmakova; Inkling, by Kenneth Oppel; Kasey & Ivy, by Alison Hughes; Krista Kim-Bap, by Angela Ahn; My Deal with the Universe, by Deborah Kerbel; My Life as a Diamond, by Jenny Manzer; and Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier.

The underlying goal of the Battle of the Books is twofold: to foster a love of reading and to shine a spotlight on Canadian authors. In SD 57, 25 schools are typically involved, and some of those enter more than one team in the district battle.

“Librarians promote the Canadian literature during their library times,” Cousins said. “Some have extra-curricular groups of kids who love to read. At Vanway, I do meetings once a week with them, starting in January. We just talk about the books, we do questions about them. Their only job is to read. And it’s good quality Canadian literature.

“We’ve really built the program at Vanway,” Cousins added. “It’s valued.”

Click on the link below to go to the Red Cedar Book Awards home page.