Way back in sixth grade, Trinity Casey wasn’t too sure about Battle of the Books.
She’d heard the competition, which challenges elementary and middle school students to read books from a list and then identity them by their details, was a lot of work, something she was wary about taking on as a new middle-schooler. But a friend talked her into trying it, “so I tried it,” Trinity said. “And I liked it. And I kept coming back.”
Now Trinity, an eighth-grader at Cleveland Middle School in Garner, is not only a veteran member of the school’s Battle of the Books team, but also a high-scorer on MyBOBTeam.com, a website that helps train Battle of the Books team members statewide and awards points based on number of questions correctly answered.
On Feb. 21, she became the site’s Top Quizzer in the middle school category, surpassing 1,331 other middle-schoolers from 203 schools using the site. At that time, Trinity (known on the site as ClevelandMS11), had answered more than 5,000 questions correctly. (She was briefly surpassed, but as of last week she was back on top with 5,300 correct answers.)
“I’m very competitive,” she said. “So I was like ‘I want to do this, it’s my last year, let me go out with a bang.’ I wanted to do something I’m going to be proud of for a while.”
It helped that the preparation for her feat involved something she loves: reading.
The annual BOB book list for middle-schoolers has 26 titles, and team members tackle as many as they can to collectively cover them all. This year, Trinity read 14 of the books. Her favorite was “Forged by Fire,” by Sharon M. Draper, about a teenager who struggles against poverty and child abuse to make a good life for himself and his younger sister.
“I just liked how it was really raw,” Trinity said. “It brought you into a world that was really dirty and it’s not all happy, good stories.”
It was the quality of the books BOB covers that convinced her to stick around after her skeptical first try in sixth grade, Trinity said.
“Some of them are award winners, they’re on the list for a reason,” she said. “They’re just amazingly written, and a lot of details. I just love the books.”
‘She loves to read’
Natalee Whitaker, a Cleveland Middle School media specialist and one of two Battle of the Books coaches, has seen Trinity’s love for reading – and for Battle of tbe Books – blossom over the past three years.
“She loves to read,” Whitaker said. “Every time I see her, she talks to me about the books that she’s reading. She recommends books to me.”
As a team member, Trinity is “very helpful,” Whitaker said. “She helps the other team members who might not have as much experience; she gives them tips.”
Students like Trinity and her BOB teammates bring something positive to the school, Whitaker said, beyond just pride in Trinity’s achievement and the team’s sixth-place showing in the Johnston County Battle of the Books competition last month.
“There’s other students who see what they’re doing and come to them and talk to them about reading,” Whitaker said. “I feel like they’re really good role models for the school.”
More books ahead
This year’s Battle of the Books is over now at Cleveland Middle School, but reading continues to be part of Trinity’s routine.
“I try and read, like even for a couple minutes a day, every day,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen with school, but I try and read every day.”
As she moves on to high school next year, she’ll have to leave Battle of the Books behind – at least as a competitor.
“I’m actually trying to convince Ms. Whitaker to have a Saturday Academy where veterans come back and help the new ones,” Trinity said. “I would love to help them.”