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Texas School for the Deaf (Austin, Tex.) won Gallaudet’s first annual Battle of the Books national competition for deaf and hard of hearing middle school students, held December 8 in the University’s Andrew Foster Auditorium. The purpose of the competition is to promote literacy among deaf and hard of hearing middle school students, promote a spirit of academic competition and good sportsmanship, and to encourage critical thinking skills.

Individuals from the winning school who were involved in the Battle of the Books competition were students Damon Rush, Malvana Ramborger, and Lydia Kopp, and chaperone Oscar Ocuto. The team received a plaque to place in their school and individual trophies. Named All-Stars this year were Malvana Ramborger (Texas School for the Deaf), Bryan Yun (Earle B. Wood Middle School, Rockville, Md.), Claude Krohn-Martinez (Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, Phoenix, Ariz.), and Jared Herman (California School for the Deaf-Riverside). The Most Valuable Player award went to Lydia Kopp of Texas School for the Deaf. The prestigious Sportsmanship award went to Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, whose students were Claude Krohn-Martinez, Yara Vasquez, and Zander Herbold.

Students in the national competition were required to read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, and answer multiple choice and short answer questions from the books.

Seventeen middle school teams competed in October for the preliminary rounds of the pilot competition. In addition to Texas School for the Deaf, the finalists from that contest who went on to compete at the national level were California School for the Deaf-Riverside, Earle B. Wood Middle School, and Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.

“It was a thrill to watch middle school-aged students show their passion for reading,” said Jesse Saunders, coordinator of Gallaudet’s Youth Programs and Outreach. “Many of them had never stood in front of an audience answering presentation-style questions, so it was fun to watch them gain more and more confidence throughout the weekend. I’m already looking forward to an expanded version of this year’s competition next year!”

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