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New Hanover County school board hears presentation on Battle of the Books

At Tuesday's New Hanover County Schools’ agenda review, board members heard a presentation on how the Battle of the Books, or "BOB," competition works.

Battle of the Books is a competition organized by the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) that encourages students to read.

It’s an extracurricular activity that is voluntary, meaning students and parents opt in to participate. Students are not required to read every book and parents and students have access to the BOB book lists a year in advance.

Elementary winners of this year’s competition from Bradley Creek Elementary attended the May meeting.

Member Josie Barnhart asked for the presentation and expressed concern about the competition in an opinion piece she wrote in the right-leaning Carolina Journal. At the May regular board meeting, Barnhart said that schools are not places for activism.

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However, some students and staff say they enjoy the competition and its benefits. As one elementary student’s testimonial, read by board member Stephanie Kraybill, put it, "I learned that you cannot judge a book by its cover.”

Still, Barnhart maintained she didn’t like how staff are required to be members of NCSLMA to run a BOB team and that the association does not adhere to district curriculum guidelines.

Board member Pat Bradford cited curriculum concerns, noting the seeming lack of control over book list submissions and how they’re chosen.

Board members Stefanie Walker and Stephanie Kraybill both pushed back, noting that students don’t have to read books their parents don’t approve of.

Barnhart said she’d like the district to continue with a local literary competition, just not one supported by the NCSLMA organization.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY and graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Her story focus revolves her deep care for children, young adults and mental health. You can reach her at cmojica@whqr.org.