"Libertad" crowned winning read in MacLean’s battle of the books
This week wrapped up the MacLean Reads competition at MacLean Elementary. Since January, nine participants in grades four and five read and debated nine different books in an elimination battle to come up with the best Canadian book for Rossland student readers.
The books, all by Canadian authors, were pre-selected by Christine DeMarco, the teacher who coordinated the competition. Competitors had to choose a book based only on the cover and backside blurb, read the novel and then defend their selection in an open debate.
For each debate round, students “were asked two questions, and then the audience could ask questions” explained Payton Reed, one of the finalists. After beating out initial group members, the students moved onto a final round.
After months of reading and debating, the finalists settled the competition. Alisha Thatcher placed third with Dear Toni by Cyndi Sand-Eveland. Second place went to Payton Reed with The Shadow of Malabron by Thomas Wharton, and top honours were awarded to Hannah Klemmensen, who championed Libertad by Alma Fullerton.
Skills like time management and public speaking were important throughout the competition. By the time they reached the final round, the leading competitors had to have read a total of five novels.
Reading all those books is going to have an effect on Payton’s future reading. “I think I have a wider range of reading now and I’ve learned to pick different books that I wouldn’t think of reading.”
In the end, all finalists feel they have learned something and know what they would do better next time. Payton thinks she could benefit from “paying more attention to books other than mine,” while Hannah would focus on reading the books. “For couple of books I put off reading them. Next time I would try to actually read them.”
DeMarco is overjoyed with the competition, which far exceeded her expectations. “It was an amazing success, and not just the children defending the books. They were so insightful – they were so knowledgeable about their characters and their settings, but it was also the audience. The questions that they asked – I was just amazed at the quality of them.
During the debates, students were asked some questions that were “very sophisticated.” Throughout the competition, students had to relate their book choice back to Rossland children, which resulted in a surprising end to the months of reading.
“In the end it was “what type of book is appropriate for everyone to read?” Payton voted for Libertad, which was not her book,” said DeMarco. Payton explained her unexpected choice: “I voted for her book because I thought it would be a better MacLean Read because it is thinner and easier for the general audience of our school. I thought my book might be a bit hard.”
The whole competition helped everyone in the school gain “an appreciation for Canadian literature and Canadian authors,” said DeMarco. Next year, they’d like to do it again while also trying something new. “We’d like to try it at a more primary level,” DeMarco explained. Having students talk about and explain books could benefit readers of all ages.
On a final note, DeMarco hopes the competition will inspire students to read over the summer. “Even if it gets one child reading over the summer, it was worth it.”