Book Bowl

What is the Book Bowl?

The Book Bowl is an exciting reading competition designed to encourage the love of reading and to promote literacy in Kalamazoo Public School students. The program exposes young people to different genres of young adult literature, which they may not read on their own. The friendly team competition involves reading, writing and the arts. This year, the Book Bowl began in November and culminates in January. The competition will include all students in grades six to 12 and it will take place at Western Michigan University.

Coach’s role

Coaches are needed in several capacities. We need coaches to assist in forming teams of four in each of the four categories listed below. Coaches are also needed to assist students with the development of essay responses.


Students will be divided into multi‐age groups in each category. There will be four categories of teams:  sixth graders, seventh and eighth graders, ninth and 10th graders, and 11th and 12th graders. Teams may not have more than four participants. Students will complete within their grade level category. Teams must be available to compete on Saturday, Jan. 18. Teams will not be allowed to combine on the day of the competition.

How the competition works


Books, reading guides and directions for essay question are available for pick-up at the main office. Each team is responsible for reading two books. Teams can read both books together or split the reading assignment amongst team members. Students must read the assigned books in such a way that they will be able to answer comprehension questions during the competition.


There will also be two essay questions to complete. Each team will submit one essay on behalf of the team. Multiple essays will not be accepted.

Essays must be submitted via email by Wednesday, Dec. 18 to

Entries will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers selected from Western Michigan University and the Kalamazoo community. Each essay will be scored and the points added to the team’s overall score of the book bowl competition.


  • Students should complete the essay question associated with the book for their grade level.
  • Entries should be between 300 and 500 words.
  • Entries must be typed and double-spaced.
  • Each team should submit their entries by email to no later than Friday, Jan. 10. Each team should include the names of each team member, grade level of each team member, and school in the body of the email. Subject line: MLK Book Bowl-Essay.

Judging criteria

Essays will be judged by a panel of reviewers selected from the Kalamazoo Public School District, Western Michigan University and the surrounding community according to the following criteria:

  • Mechanics—Spelling, grammar, punctuation, form, etc. Contestants are urged to proofread their essays and to ask for additional proofreading assistance.
  • Organization—Writing flows logically with clear structure.
  • Main idea—Discuss the connection between Dr. King’s life and work and the social justice issues raised in each text. 


Essays are worth 64 points. Points from essays will be added to the overall score of the quiz bowl.

Essay questions

6th grade teams

  • How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration:  Little Rock Girl 1957

    How does this book support the statement:  "one picture is worth a thousand words"? 
  • The Lions of Little Rock

    Using the phrase, "In this story, belonging means...", discuss the issue of belonging in The Lions of Little Rock.  Explain your choices.

7-8th grade teams

  • Hold Fast

    The book presents two main themes: “The Power of Words” and “Homelessness”.  In this essay, use the power of words to address the issue of homelessness. Discuss how it impacts families, children and their educational experience.  The character Early Pearl developed a solution to address homelessness---what would your solution be? 
  • Mapping Global Issues: Poverty and Hunger 

    Discuss the similarities and differences between poverty in the United States and poverty in other countries/regions. What are the main differences between extreme poverty and situational poverty?

9th-10th grade teams

  • Alive in the Killing Fields: Surviving the Khmer Rouge Genocide

    Why are Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge compared to Hilter?  What are some of the similarities and differences? 
  • Never Fall Down

    Why did Arn say he had to think about survival all the time?  How did this influence his life?

11th-12th grade teams

  • Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

    The United States is often called a "free" country.  How would you describe this idea of freedom to someone like Shin who was born and lived for 23 years in Camp 14? 
  • The Good Braider

    What does Viola gain by leaving the Sudan?  What does she lose? What is the emotional impact on her of both the gains and loses?