Students in OCDE’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program advance in ‘Battle of the Books’ showdown

Three students from OCDE’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Venado Middle School in Irvine have advanced to the final four in the national “Battle of the Books” reading competition sponsored by Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

In fact, Washington, D.C. is where they’re headed next. The team will travel there in April to vie for a championship.

Students competing in the Battle of the Books competition

The Green Team from OCDE’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Venado Middle School will compete for a national championship in Gallaudet University’s “Battle of the Books” April 22 through April 25. Pictured, from left, are teacher A.J. O’Donnell, team member Leah Ortiz, alternate Cassidey Ungos, team member Hector Reyna, team member Julie Pluguez and teacher Janet Dicker.

“The kids are over-the-moon excited,” Venado teacher Janet Dicker said.

Gallaudet’s Battle of the Books was created in 2012 to boost literacy, encourage critical thinking and promote sportsmanship for middle school students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Teams are split into one of three divisions — Blue, Green and Buff — and go head-to-head in contests that test reading retention and comprehension.

At preliminary-level competitions, held via videophone, squads earn points by answering multiple-choice and short-answer questions. The playoffs operate similarly but feature an extra round that requires students to respond with presentations. The nationals, which also include the extra presentation round, take place on the campus of Gallaudet University.

Eleven students served by OCDE’s Regional Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Venado competed across all three divisions, preparing for their matchups over a span of about six weeks. During that time, they read their assigned books, developed study materials and participated in small-group discussions.

When the preliminary contests were over, Venado’s Blue and Green teams had punched their tickets to the playoffs in January. Though both had standout performances, the Green Team — featuring Gali Ortiz, Juliana Pluguez and Hector Reyna, along with alternate Cassidey Ungos — learned on Jan. 19 it will compete for the Battle of the Books Green Division championship April 22 through April 25.

Getting this far is a feat worthy of celebration, but not for too long. We’re told Venado’s Green Team will soon receive three new books to study.

For more information, visit Gallaudet University’s Battle of the Books website.