The Oskaloosa Public Library.

OSKALOOSA — A Battle of the Books is about to commence.

Great Prairie Area Education Agency (AEA) is behind the Battle of the Books initiative. Oskaloosa High and Middle School Librarian Patricia ErkenBrack stated that AEA has developed a list of 30 books.

"The idea is to have a final battle that's going to take place sometime in early spring," ErkenBrack said.

While there were around 20 students interested in competing initially, that number has dwindled to around 10, ErkenBrack said. Those ten students will be narrowed down to a team of six following a qualifying quiz.

"It will be general questions about the book itself and the author, probably focusing on plot and theme and those kinds of things," she said. "Once the kids qualify as one step of the top scorers on that exam at the local level, they then come together as a team and quiz one another and get ready for the final battle with all of the other schools that are participating in our AEA."

Only one team per school is permitted to compete. ErkenBrack stated the high school is also participating, with a team of three preparing for the battle.

Oskaloosa Elementary School is not currently competing, although the school has participated in the past, according to librarian Karen White.

ErkenBrack mentioned a sixth grader who has already read nearly all of the books. "It's pretty amazing. He knows a lot about them; he reads and he understands. And he's by far not the only one that's excited and keen on this," she said. "I just think it's so important to promote reading. Kids are very much into their video games and a lot of stuff that's computer-oriented, and I just think that reading is such an important skill. Once you find that love, you connect with one book that really speaks to you, then I think you're hooked and you're off running."

The students not only do individual work in reading and studying the book, it becomes a group project, especially for the high school students, ErkenBrack stated. Students will meet to study and quiz each other.

The school has received some assistance from the community in getting books in the hands of the students. ErkenBrack enlisted the aid of April Gorski, manager of the Book Vault. Gorski put out a note to the community regarding the Battle of the Books and invited community members to purchase some copies of books that weren't already in the OMS collection, ErkenBrack said.

ErkenBrack has received several donations from the community, "so that was really kind of exciting to have that school-community partnership and for her to be so willing and accommodating," she said, adding that the public library also helped provide books.

"It's just been an outpouring of support that I'm really, really grateful for," Erkenbrack said. "If a kid wants a book, I'll do just about anything to put it in their hands."

— Herald staff writer Angie Holland can be reached at and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.

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