The purpose of the Battle of the Books program is to encourage reading by all students at the middle school level. Students, regardless of ability, are exposed to quality literature representing a variety of literary styles and viewpoints by prominent authors in the area of young adult literature. The game format creates interest and excitement in reading. Through the fun and excitement of the competition, students improve reading skills, mature in their choices of reading materials, and acquire a broader knowledge base. Even during the height of the competition, students and coaches should remember that the goal is to READ, not necessarily to win!
North Carolina's Battle of the Books can be traced back to a public radio program in Chicago in the 1940s originated by Ruth Harshaw. Librarians exposed to the original show reconstructed the game to encourage reading today. Michael Leonard, an Illinois native, first introduced the contest in Onslow County when he accepted the position of Children's Librarian for the Onslow County Public Library. His rationale for placing it at the sixth grade level was the dearth of activities in the public library and in the public schools for this aged child. In 1981, Onslow County Public Library sponsored the first North Carolina Battle of the Books contest for sixth graders. The North Carolina Association of School Librarians assumed sponsorship of Battle of the Books in 1991. In 2000, the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) became a sponsor of Battle of the Books, and independent schools became a region for competition. The first state competition of Battle of the Books was held in 2001-2002. NCSLMA coordinates the program on a statewide basis. In 2013, the NCSLMA Executive Board agreed to partner with the NC Association for Scholastic Activities (NCASA). NCASA member schools can now add points toward the Middle School Cup for participation in Battle of the Books.