PUBLISHED: 9:48 AM on Wednesday, February 15, 2006
JYC students gear up for Battle of the Books

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Johnson Youth Center students prepare for Battle of the Books. The district competition is Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The battle for state is on for three students at Johnson Youth Center in Juneau.

Last year the JYC team beat out Juneau Douglas High School to win the district title and go to state at Battle of the Books.

The team was eliminated during the first round at the state contest. This year's district battle is Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Since students at JYC are incarcerated and their identities cannot be revealed, they chose to battle via audio conference.

Three students were selected for the team after teacher Jo Dahl assigned them reading during Christmas break.

"These are not my top students, but these are the guys with dedication," Dahl said.

Teams are given a list of 11 books to read and are quizzed with 16 questions per battle. The team members said they read all of the books, but divide the list to study three or four.

Books range in genres and include science fiction, non-fiction and murder mystery. The boys said they have read some books eight times to remember details they may be quizzed on during competition.

Dahl said that while people may view the team as having much time to study because of being at the center, that's not the case.

"Their days are very structured and they have chores and class. They don't just have free time to sit around and read," Dahl said.

Helping coach the team is JYC librarian Georgia Hartner, who is a retired librarian from Wasilla High School, which won the state battle in 2003.

"This gives them a sense of accomplishment win or lose, and they've read some really good books," Hartner said. "This is a pretty big thing state-wide. It's perfect for Alaska."

Students said they like reading for Battle of the Books because it is the only activity they can participate in with other schools and teams.

"They get amped when they start," Dahl said. "They're so excited. It's probably harder on me than it is on them."

Reading also helps students with their own writing such as stories and poems, Dahl said.

"They do a lot of writing and reflecting in here as part of their treatment. They see writing as an outlet of emotion and reading is an escape."