Though the first round of this year's "Battle of the Books" isn't until next week, the teen competition itself is already being declared a winner.
That's because the Sewickley Public Library received a record number of high school team registrations for grades nine through 12.
Emily Fear, teen librarian, said the amount of high school registrations outnumber team totals for other grade levels. There are 24 high school teams, 23 seventh- and eighth-grade teams, and 19 sixth-grade teams.
"High school is usually much lower than other grades," Fear said.
In mid-October, the library in conjunction with Moon Area Library began promoting the program designed to encourage reading. Teams of up to five had until Jan. 25 to sign up. Students are given a reading list of selected books compiled for each grade level. Books span a variety of genres and include at least one non-fiction title.
"The actual battle is a couple of rounds. We ask a couple of questions for each book," Fear said. "It’s basically like a pop quiz."
Students are quizzed on author names, book content, and other details to test their knowledge and comprehension. As an extra incentive, high school teams are treated to pizza and a Skype visit with one of the authors from the book list. This year, it's Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer Necromancer. Winners receive $25 or $15 gift cards to Penguin Bookshop, but for most, it's not about the prizes.
"It's been fantastic to see the teens want to take part just for the love of reading and competition," Fear said.
The teen competition started eight years ago after the children's department had a succesful run with fourth and fifth grades. Fear said some students who started the competition in fourth grade have carried on and are now in high school.
Submissions are not only from Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy and St. James, but also from Moon, Ambridge, Pine-Richland, Franklin Regional, North Catholic, Cornell and Central Valley, Fear said.
"We’re all over the northern area and its been growing steadily every year," she said. "It seems inevitable that we’re going to keep expanding."
The Battle of the Books will take place in Hansen Library at Sewickley Academy. Sixth grade competition is on Tuesday, Feb. 26; Seventh and eighth grades are on Wednesday, Feb. 27 and high school is on March 4.