The battle to help kids love books

Some of the children taking part in the Battle of the Books

More than 3,000 children from six countries have been doing battle at the Geneva International Book Fair - but no blood has been spilt. Because the Battle of the Books was all about encouraging kids to read, and bringing different cultures together around the book.

This content was published on May 2, 2001 - 08:47

"The main aim is to get children loving reading," says Daniel Beugger, a Geneva teacher and head of the organising committee.

The Battle of the Books is now in its fifth year. The children, aged between eight and 12, come mainly from Geneva. Over 120 classes from the canton are participating.

But it is no longer just the preserve of Geneva. Schools from Quebec, Burkina Faso, Senegal, France and Belgium also took part.

"It's important to discover other cultures, to build links with other francophone countries, to show that there are other ways of life," Beugger told swissinfo.

Each child had the opportunity to read 10 books, and during the competition, had to answer questions about them. Beugger says pupils are not forced to read them: "Reading should be about pleasure and enrichment," he says.

The novels were chosen for their diversity. There were books from Africa, Quebec and Europe. Often they do no conform to what one would normally consider classic children's literature.

After they had read the books, the children were invited to write what they thought of them on the Battle of the Books website. It's not only a way for them to express themselves and get used to talking about the books, but also to make contact with other children taking part in the competition.

But the competitive element is most definitely secondary. If the children who took part discover the sheer pleasure of reading, the Battle of the Books will have served an important function.

In this age of video games and playstations, Daniel Buegger is optimistic: "There's still a real appetite among kids for reading. The publication of children's books is in a very healthy state."

by Roy Probert

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