Battle of the Books!

The 2021 Top Ten OBOB Readers of NMIS
Ruby Reading

By Jillian Daley

Sometimes being courageous isn’t about facing a foe, but about not giving up on something you love. Students and staff at North Marion Intermediate School (NMIS) exhibited that special kind of bravery in a time when all of us needed to see it the most.

When Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) canceled regional and state competitions in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Jan Jones, a tech teacher by trade and library media specialist by training, didn’t see why that meant her students couldn’t still compete. Her determination to continue with competitions resulted in an online program.

“It’s just a different year,” Jones says.

Here’s how it usually works: OBOB releases a list of 16 books for competitors in elementary, middle, and high school to delve into, studying the titles in-depth so that they’ll be able to handily power through knowledge questions on each work during contests. Students compete during in-building face-offs, coming together for regionals to vie for one of three places at the statewide battle. Jones realized that even if her students wouldn’t have the chance to compete on a larger scale, there was no reason to disappoint almost a dozen young minds with one more activity lost to quarantine.

Reading in the Time of Quarantine

Ten of her charges met regularly online from October to May, soaking up details from 16 books and competing in in-building-only competitions through April, with the program finishing off with an online party on May 10.

“I stayed in OBOB because of my love of reading and the party at the end, so basically everything about OBOB,” says fifth-grader Ben Weaver, an NMIS OBOB competitor. “Even though it’s online, OBOB is still OBOB.”

The Quarantine Squad (fifth-graders Meyli Gutierrez-Barajas and Shea Thornton) triumphed, taking first, with the Raccoon Readers (fourth-grader Addison Shaw and third-graders Lauren Holbert and Ruby Foster) right behind, performing admirably, especially as a younger group. Other top-notch competitors included Ben, Akacia Bannick, Kennadie Dyer, and Bobby Tournier.

“I like OBOB because it's fun, and I get to read a ton of new books,” Shea explains.

Meyli says she didn’t want to quit and wanted to challenge herself. Plus, words have the power to transport you.

When you’re in your imagination, you can go anywhere you want to go, and it’s a world where you can just be yourself without everyone having to judge you or stare at you or something like that,” she says.

Believing in Battle of the Books

In a way, the 10 NMIS competitors all won simply because they didn’t let a hefty barricade like the pandemic prevent them from participating in the activity they loved.

“There were many kids who started, but we had 10 who made it to the battles,” Jones says. “Normally we have 40 kids, but there were only three or four teams that ended up battling. We just wanted them to have the experience and keep it going, so, hopefully, for next year, with these third- and fourth-graders doing so well, they will return. It’s fun.”

Libby Hamler-Dupras, one of the original founders who launched the first OBOB competition in 2007-08, says that many districts also kept the fun going, even though OBOB organizers including herself had to cancel this school year’s regional and state tournaments.

“It was a really tough call,” Hamler-Dupras says.

Jones notes that she was only able to carry on OBOB because she received so much support. Although Jones handles the paperwork, there are five teachers total who help with OBOB: Reading Coach Page Gianella, Fourth Grade Teacher Breanne Knudson, Fifth Grade Teacher Rachel Camp, English Language Development Teacher Maria Cisco, and PE Teacher Tanis Campbell. NMIS Principal Cory Gaub and School Board Vice Chair Bill Graupp ensured that the students had the books they needed to compete. Gaub says he always takes an opportunity to accentuate the positive.

“It's really good for our community to see the bright spots and excellence we have here in our teachers, students, and families,” Gaub says.

It’s Jones’s sixth year with the program, and she’s seen the students go to state once and get close to advancing there three other times. She hopes to get things on track again in 2021-22.

“Hopefully, we’ll get back to normal next year, and we’ll start meeting in person,” she says.

Not everyone was disappointed. Meyli jokes, “I appreciated that we did not have regionals.”

What NMIS Students Are Saying About OBOB

So, what is it about OBOB that keeps kids going? It’s all about the books:

  • “It’s a way to learn about different genres of learning and a way to learn about new books,” says Bobby, a fifth-grader.
  • “I like reading all of the books, and usually the books are really interesting,” says Akacia, a fifth-grader.
  • “I like to read and usually pretend I’m in that book,” Ben says.
  • “I stayed in OBOB because I like to read,” Ruby says. “It relaxes me.”

To share your story on the North Marion School District, email Communications Specialist Jillian Daley at


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