Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:36 pm
On a Wednesday morning last April, hundreds of fourth- and fifth-grade students from across the Racine area filed into the city’s Memorial Hall convention center ready to put their reading skills to the test.
Working in teams of two to four, the students had spent months reading and building knowledge of 40 preselected book titles for quizzes during Racine Public Library’s annual Battle of the Books competition.
The program is now in its 20th year, but it’s seen significant growth in recent years thanks to a sponsorship by SC Johnson, said Darcy Mohr, who heads the library’s adult and youth services.
The Racine-based manufacturer has sponsored the program for almost 10 years by donating books, hosting competitions and throwing a year-end celebration for all participants. And this year, for the first time, the company provided busing to and from the competitions, which helped boost participation from 113 teams in 2018 to 187 teams, Mohr said.
“Their sponsorship has really ramped it up because now we’re reaching more schools, the program is becoming more visible and we’re able to do more events,” she said. “It’s just made it possible for us to reach more kids.”
To kick off the 2019 Battle of the Books program, SC Johnson donated a complete set of the selected titles to each fourth- and fifth-grade classroom throughout the entire Racine Unified School District — private, public and charter schools alike, a total donation of about 8,000 books.
“For nearly 10 years, SC Johnson has proudly supported the Racine Public Library’s Battle of the Books because it provides thousands of books to students and encourages a love of reading,” said Jim Ladwig, senior director of global community affairs. “Research shows that children who aren’t reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Our hope is that literacy programs like this will build excitement about reading and help improve literacy achievement.”
Battle of the Books in 2019 attracted a record-breaking number of teams, but Mohr said she expects even more participation in 2020 due to increased outreach.
SC Johnson’s efforts to support local literacy programming reach beyond Battle of the Books. In 2015, the company donated more than $250,000 for the library’s new bookmobile, which transports its 1,400-book collection to neighborhoods throughout Racine six days a week. And it has sponsored other literacy programs including Racine Wonders, Racine Reads and English Fest.
“It’s vitally important to a community to have high literacy skills and we work toward that in all the various things we do, but to get that support from a local company says to us that they care about this too and they recognize it as being important for a healthy community,” Mohr said. “It allows us to expand what we’re already doing and helps us bring those efforts along a little further.”