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Fri., Oct. 9
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Reading Rockstars capture Battle of the Books competition


MASSENA - It was a nail biter right to the very end during this week’s seventh annual Battle of the Books competition at the Massena Public Library.

After 20 questions in the final match, the Reading Rockstars from Trinity Catholic and Nightengale Elementary’s Zaegan Jabby were still tied, necessitating an overtime that was eventually won by the Reading Rockstars.

The Reading Rockstars, coached by Marjorie Ilisco, included Chloe Violi, Julia Blair, Robbie Southwick and Anah Bogdan. Zaegan Jabby, coached by Melissa Power, included Meagan Morgan, Zachary Aiosa, Jacob Palmer and Abigail Johnson.

The competition put nine months of reading to the test, as six teams, comprised of students in grades four through six, squared off against each other in the local competition, hoping for a chance to advance to the regional tournament in Gouverneur.

Five of the teams - Reading Rockstars, book Bandits II, Junior Book Battlers, Readers of the Lost Ark and Rockin Readers - were fielded by Trinity Catholic School. Nightengale Elementary School’s team name Zaegan Jabbya was derived from the members’ names, according to Ms. Power.

The books were made available to students in September, according to Youth Services Librarian Elaine Dunne-Thayer. They had 15 titles to read between team members to prepare for the questions they faced during the tournament, like “In what book does a boy play the piano beautifully,” or “In what book did a teacher have to leave before the end of the school year because her mother suffered a stroke.”

Since it was a double-elimination tournament, teams that lost their initial battle had an opportunity to play against another team in the hopes of moving up in the bracket. Ms. Dunne-Thayer said it gave them an opportunity to “take a breather” before playing the next round of 20 questions.

Parent Mary Elman served as one of the judges. She said all of her children had participated in the tournament while they were eligible, but have since aged out.

“I’ve had a child in it ever since the first year it started. It’s just fantastic. My kids read non-stop,” she said, adding that the Battle of the Books encourages students to “read books they would not have read otherwise.”

Julia Blair, a member of Trinity Catholic’s Reading Rockstars was participating in her first tournament “because my friends asked me.”

While they split the chores of reading the various books, Julia said her primary love is fiction.

Brendan O’Neill was part of Trinity Catholic’s Readers of the Lost Ark, along with team members Violet Reyes, Ethan Miller and Aiden O’Neill. Their coaches were Beth Reyes and Candace O’Neill.

Like Julia, the fourth-grader was participating in his first tournament.

“It’s the first year I’ve been allowed to” because of the grade restrictions, Brendan said.

He decided to give it a try because “I wanted to try out a new experience.”

The secret to answering questions correctly was to remember “very important parts of (the book)” that could serve as the basis for the tournament’s queries. They also had assistance from their coaches during the months leading up to the tournament.

“Our coaches read all the books and ask questions,” Brendan said. “On Saturday and Monday we get together and practice.”

Other teams were Book Bandits II with team members Erin McCarthy, Rebekah Steenberg, Madie Weir and Kennedy Hayes, and coach Ann Borsellino; Junior Book Battlers with team members Hannah Laneuville, Ava LaValley, Hannah Greco and Grace Furnace, and coach Eric Pomainville; and Rockin Readers with team members Jenna Boisvert, Samantha O’Keefe, Carli Romeo and Hannah Garvey-Cameron, and coached by Loralee Marsh.

Ms. Dunne-Thayer commended the students for making reading a priority in their life over the past few months, and the parents for encouraging their children to read at home.

In in addition, she said, coaches had to be thanked

“They work tirelessly with the kids to make sure they’re reading at the level they’re supposed to be reading,” she said.

No matter what team took the honors in the Massena competition, Ms. DunneThayer said she had no doubt they would do well at the regional competition. She noted that, since the Massena Public Library began participating in the Battle of the Books, their teams have always finished in the top three.

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