Battle of the Books

Ames Public Library's Battle of the Books for 5th & 6th graders

Ames Public Library’s Battle of the Books is a way for Students to have fun and compete in a book-related challenge. Students in grades 5 and 6 form teams, read a designated list of books, and come prepared to answer questions based on facts from the books at a competition hosted by Ames Public Library. Students have several months to read and prepare before the Battle event in the spring. Winners receive a traveling plaque and, of course, bragging rights for a whole year!

Upcoming Battles

5th Grade: March 28, 2024

6th Grade: April 4, 2024

Want to Participate?

Please fill out the online registration form.


There are three (3) rounds. All teams will participate in the first two Battle rounds. The teams with the highest combined score from the first two rounds will advance to the Final Battle.

Teams sit together at a table in their designated room and, during the Battle, answer questions about the books.

  • Questions will be randomly drawn from a container and read twice to the team. The team will then discuss their answer and one person will stand and give the answer.
  • Each team will be given different questions and no question will be asked twice
  • Teams will be awarded 10 points for each correct answer and zero points if they answer incorrectly, so guessing is encouraged!
  • At the end of each round, teams will be given a short break before the next round begins
  • Our questions are always phrased like: “In The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, what does the caterpillar turn into at the end of the book?” The team would then discuss, one member would stand and (hopefully) give the answer, “A butterfly.”

  • All of our questions have definite, clear answers that can be verified on a specific page in each book

  • We never ask for interpretive answers, yes/no, true/false, or multiple choice

  • Students DO NOT need to know page numbers of where to find the answers

  • When preparing, make sure students are familiar with who the main characters are (names), what the main plot points are, where the story takes place (time in history, setting/location), etc.

Depending on how many teams participate, each round normally takes around 45 minutes and then each team is given a short break before the next round. We generally plan on about three hours for the whole competition.

  • Food and drink are allowed in the Library so it is suggested that you bring snacks and water for your team between rounds
  • Please dispose of all trash and clean up after your group when finished

Battle Teams

Teams typically consist of four (4) students each. If for some reason a team member is sick or otherwise unable to attend the Battle, teams may participate with fewer than four. Likewise, if a school has six (6) students interested in participating, it might be best to form two teams of three (3).

Fifth graders may compete in the 5th grade Battle and sixth graders in the 6th grade Battle.

Homeschooled families are encouraged to participate! Please form grade-appropriate teams with other home or public schooled students.

Students younger than 5th grade must wait to participate until they are in 5th grade.

Team Sponsors

Any parent, teacher or responsible adult may be a team sponsor. Team sponsors pledge to:

  • Form a team(s)
  • Register the team(s) online at:
  • Make sure the students are reading the selected books from the Battle list and preparing the students for competition day
  • Commit to being present on competition day to check in the team, make sure they arrive on time to each room, and remain in the room with the team in case adult assistance is needed

Absolutely! However, for the day of the Battle we do require each team to have a designated adult representative in the room at all times in case adult assistance is needed. This adult will make sure the team gets to the right room at the right time and is also responsible for the behavior of the team members during the competition portion. The sponsor may assign these duties to any responsible adult.

No. However it is in the best interest of the team if the sponsor has read all the books to better prepare the team members ahead of time.

Book lists tend to be around 18 books (give or take a couple titles.) Teams in the past have tried many strategies for preparing for competition:

  • Divide the list into groups and each kid is responsible for reading and knowing well their handful of books
  • Divide the list in half and have a couple students overlap their reading
  • Some students just read the ones they are interested in and hope that all the books are covered by someone on the team
  • Encourage every member to read all the books

No matter what strategy you use, try to have every book on the list read by someone. Each round's set of questions includes questions from every book on the list. Because the questions are drawn randomly, a team may receive any number of questions for any book at any time. It is heartbreaking for everyone when a team has to stand up and say, “We don’t have an answer because we didn’t read that book.”

Creators of the lists try very hard to include a wide range of reading topics, genres and levels and feel it’s important for all students to identify with books on the lists. Because each student is not required to read every book on the list, we would encourage you to have your student skip the book you find unappealing. And by all means, please let us know what book and why, so we may take that into consideration for future years.

Additional Information

No. Team unity is definitely apparent when students on a team match, but it is absolutely not required to do so.

Absolutely! We encourage everyone to come support the teams during the Battle. There will be designated seating areas in each room for spectators. However, for the respect of the participants, we ask that all cell phones and electronic devices be silenced and young children be taken out of the room if they become distracting.

Each spring youth librarians consult feedback from teachers, librarians and interested parties as well as state award lists, previously used Battle books and other recommended titles for the next year’s list. Books are vetted, read, and discussed for balance of topics, genres, formats and reading levels. The final list for each grade takes many weeks to finalize and are available via Ames Public Library’s website (, stopping by the Library, or emailing If you have titles you’d like to suggest, we’d love to hear from you and will take your suggestions into consideration when creating the lists.

As a result of preparing for and participating in the Battle, we hope that students will:

  1. Read more widely than they normally would in varying genres and formats such as graphic novels, nonfiction, mysteries, fantasy, etc., and in the process discover (or reaffirm) that reading is fun!
  2. Understand the world better as they read books about people with a variety of life experiences that may differ from their own experiences, whether in time, place, abilities, cultures, or other ways.
  3. Engage socially with other students and sponsors around reading and books.
  4. Enjoy a fun and competitive experience (while reading, preparing, and participating in the contest) that will give them a chance to show off their hard work of reading and preparing.
  5. Read critically for content and meaning while preparing, listen carefully to questions during the contest, and think carefully about how to respond with their answer.
  6. Value reading more, and spread that priority to their families and schools as a whole.
  7. Feel empowered to participate whether they are strong readers or not.
  8. Enjoy using the booklist as a tool to identify great books chosen carefully by local librarians, whether they participate in the Battle or not.


If you have any questions, contact