Education10th September 2015

The Battle is on for Deaf and HoH Children to Prove Their Passion for Reading

Entry for the 2015 Battle of the Books competition opens at Gallaudet University.

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

 The world famous and highly regarded Gallaudet University (Washington, D.C., USA) has a proud history when it cpmes to Deaf education. Inventive and determoned when it comes to getting the best of it's students, the University has just opened entry for their annual competition to encourage young Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to read more books, as well as promoting critical thinking and good sportsmanship. The competition known as, ‘Battle of the Books’, is open to any young Deaf/HoH middle school students (2nd grade through to 6th grade) across America.

The national competition, which started in 2012, is split into three levels (Green, Blue and Buff) linked to the student's grade and level of reading. Schools have until Friday September 18th to register their interest in taking part in this year’s competition. Home-schooled students or Deaf/HoH students in mainstream schools are able to participate but they need to join together with other local students to form a team. The students entered into the competition will be provided with their books on October 9th and the preliminary competition rounds start in early December, with the playoffs taking place in January 2016.

The top 8 schools from the Buff division playoffs, plus the top 4 schools from the Blue and Green divisions will be given an all-expenses paid trip to Gallaudet to take part in the national competition which takes place in April 2016.

The students involved in the competition are given the books to read during school time or in their own time. They are encouraged to meet with each other and discuss the books and think about what questions they might be asked but chaperones (teachers) are strictly forbidden from helping the students come up with the questions or the discussions. During the competition, the students will be asked factual questions about the books they have read; things about the story and the characters proving that they have read and understood the books.

For the final national competition, there will be a new set of books and the scoring works a little differently. The students are asked more open-ended questions and are judged on both the content of their answer and also their presenting ability. If you would like to check out some of last year's competition, Gallaudet have a few videos available online.

Last year’s Battle of the Books winners were:

  • Phoenix Day School for the Deaf (Buff)
  • Wisconsin School for the Deaf (Blue)
  • California School for the Deaf, Fremont (Green)

Undoubtedly, they will all be back again this year defending their titles so if you think you and your school can do better and you’ve not registered yet, see the Gallaudet website for more information.

While it’s a shame this competition is limited to American students only, this really seems like a fantastic opportunity for young Deaf/HoH students to have some incentives to get into reading more, to expand their critical thinking techniques and allow opportunities for exposure to competitions, sportsmanship and public speaking.

In recent years across the UK, many of our Deaf schools have been closed down, with the Government and Local Authorities having a preference to sending Deaf/HoH children to mainstream schools. It's becoming increasingly common for these young Deaf students to never meet other young Deaf people or Deaf adults for that matter. However, there are still enough British Deaf Schools for a competition such as this to be viable, providing a fantastic opportunity for those youngsters to meet other people just like themselves. It would also be an opportunity for networking (for the students and their parents), and also encourages them to put their gadgets down and read more which can't be a bad thing.

The achievements of the students from Gallaudet are beyond question, so why don't we try and learn from their good practice and get something similar running in the UK. With the potential for sponsorship from a big company like Waterstones, Tesco, or WHSmith, SLFirst would be delighted to help organise such a competition in the UK.

If you'd like to follow the championship, Gallaudet will be providing a webcast of the national finals which you can access on their website.

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Community / Education

10th September 2015