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Canyon Rim Cougars win third place at the "Battle of the Books"

Gold celebrating the best of GPS!

Three boys on Canyon Rim's team pose with their trophy and ribbons.There is nothing like a good book. Some of the best books take readers on an adventure to an unknown world, where the plot comes alive and readers can fully immerse themselves in the main character’s story. A well-written book increases knowledge, kickstarts critical thinking skills and makes reading fun.

“Readers make leaders. It’s a cheesy cliché, but it really is true,” said Dr. Shawna Della Cerra, librarian at Canyon Rim Elementary

Dr. Della Cerra is the coach of the award-winning “Battle of the Books” team at Canyon Rim. In April 2022, her team won third place in the regional competition, beating out teams from across southern Maricopa County.

“It was just unbelievable. I was just so proud of these boys, because they did it completely on their own. They were pumped,” she said.

“Battle of the Books” has been a long-standing tradition in the Gilbert Public Schools district. For years, fifth and sixth grade students have faced off in the reading competition. Currently, there are 18 “Battle of the Books” teams at GPS elementary schools. Each team is made up of three competitors. As members of the team, students read 12 books a school year in their free time. They are quizzed on those books at school-level, district-level and regional competitions. 

“It’s designed to promote the love and appreciation of reading,” Dr. Della Cerra said.

Students must learn everything they can about the book’s characters, plot, and setting. Dr. Della Cerra says some students choose to read all 12 books while other teams split the books up. Every year the books are predetermined by school and public librarians. The team at Canyon Rim studied on their own and met monthly to prepare for the competitions. 

“They showed dedication, determination, and perseverance,” she said. 

In the district competition, the Canyon Rim Cougars got all of the quiz questions correct in the first and second rounds, leading to a tie-breaker against Neely Traditional Academy and Gilbert Elementary. 

“I was on pins and needles,” Dr. Della Cerra said, “It’s the luck of the draw on the questions. They get so detailed that you have to know every single sentence in the book.”

Canyon Rim pulled off a second place finish, allowing them to go on to the regional competition. The Cougars were finalists again at regionals. They endured several rounds of questions and another tie-breaker, where it was determined that they would be in third place. At both competitions, the team received trophies in recognition of their hard work. Dr. Della Cerra, a first-year librarian, was so impressed by her team’s performance.

“I feel like I was seeing future debaters, lawyers, and very dedicated individuals that will be successful in their life,” she said.

Dr. Della Cerra believes GPS elementary students who compete on “Battle of the Books” teams expand their understanding of a wide-range of topics and also learn how to examine different points of view.

“It takes them out of their comfort zone. It makes them think. It makes them question, and it makes them more well-rounded individuals,” she said.

“Battle of the Books” competitors also display confidence and fearlessness when conversing about different topics with their classmates, families, and friends.

“These brave kids just start talking, sharing ideas, and solving problems that we couldn’t in our generation,” she said. 

To learn more about Canyon Rim Elementary, schedule a school tour or enroll today!


Written by Kailey Latham