By Jessica Steger, Current Staff
East junior Brandon Kohler has found the courage to walk into battle as an army of one.
Kohler has entered the Battle of the Books competition, taking place in the East and West High Schools, as a one-man team. Traditionally teams consist of up to four members to share the reading load, but this year the ranks are thin.
In Battle of the Books each team reads 20 books between their members, and then “battle” an opposing team by answering questions about the books read. If there are enough teams these battles are conducted tournament style, and the winners of each school advance to the state competition.
Why would Kohler embark on a mission to read 20 books alone?
“I would prefer to do it on my own because I know what pace I read at, so I don’t have to wait or speed up to match other people. And I don’t think a lot of my friends would want to, because I read a lot and my friends don’t,” Kohler said.
Once that question is cleared, the matter of how could one possibly read 20 books comes to the forefront of the mind. And once again Kohler has an answer. “I generally check out one a day, except Friday I generally take two to three books home,” Kohler said. Essentially, he reads one book per day.
This may seem inconceivable to some, but reading a book a day seems plausible if one truly loves reading. “Basically all I do is read. I like reading. Reading is a way to kind of get your thoughts out there without actually saying anything,” Kohler said.
Due to the fact that Kohler is the only East participant he is automatically going to the state competition. Despite going into this competition alone, Kohler is self-assured. “I‘m feeling confident but not cocky. Because I read, I get the information, and I understand what’s happening in the books. But I’m sure I’m going to forget stuff, because that’s what humans do. They forget stuff,” Kohler said.
Very few high school students have taken Kohler’s lead and joined the Battle of the Books competition. According to Kim Christiansen, the librarian at the middle and high schools, there are only two teams at West High School, and Brandon Kohler is the sole competitor representing East. In addition, Pathways, the district charter school, is joining the battle with one team this year.
These numbers may seem bleak, but they are only one part of the equation. The middle schools of the West Bend School District are also partaking in battle. There are 59 teams at Silverbrook Intermediate School and 38 teams at Badger Middle School, according to Christiansen.
“In Silverbrook and Badger, because we have such a strong program there, they’ve been battling since January, the week after Christmas break,” Christiansen said. “The high school is a little bit harder because a lot of the time kids are a lot busier with AP classes and things like that. And if they weren’t exposed to it before they don’t realize that they don’t have to read all 20 books themselves, and they have teammates. So anybody who reads can be a part of it.”
With a little mental math one can figure out they would only have to read a total of five books, which is not nearly as arduous a task as reading 20 books like Kohler is.
The reading selection itself has a variety of books. “It’s a big selection. There is some action, and some biographies. But, overall they are all really good books to read,” Kohler said.
In addition, Christiansen described where the list came from. “It’s all library recommendations from across the state. Typically some of your bestsellers for high school,” said Christiansen.
The state Battle of the Books Competition will begin in the last full week of February, and the places competitors take will be announced near the end of March.
(Photographs by Jessica Steger, Current Staff.)