When Did it Begin?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.