News from the Center for the Book
Letters About Literature Program Honors National and State Winners
One hundred fifty young readers across the country were honored in May with state and national awards for their achievements in this year’s Letters About Literature writing contest, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in association with Target.
Six national winners received cash awards and also earned for their community or school library a $10,000 Letters About Literature reading-promotion grant. Twelve national honorable mention winners were also chosen, receiving cash awards and earning for their community or school library a $1,000 reading-promotion grant.
With funding provided by Target, the national reading-promotion program challenges young readers to write a personal letter to an author, describing how that author’s work has changed their view of the world or of themselves.
More than 70,000 children in grades four through 12 participated this year. Students compete in one of three competition levels: elementary school, grades four through six; middle school, grades seven and eight; and high school, grades nine through 12. On the state level, the program is sponsored by affiliate state centers for the book. State and national judges include published authors, editors, publishers, librarians and teachers.
For information about the contest and to read the winning letters go to www.lettersaboutliterature.org. For further details, contact the national program director at [email protected]
Level 1 (Grades 4-6)
- Lara Bagdasarian, Los Angeles, Calif. Francisco Jiménez, “The Circuit”
- Reagan Nelson, Spokane, Wash. Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Little House” series
Level 2 (Grades 7-8)
- Marissa Meier, Gilbert, Ariz. John Bibee, “The Magic Bicycle”
- Siori Koener, Murfreesboro, Tenn., J.D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye”
Level 3 (Grades 9-12)
- Anna Wichorek, Anchorage, Alaska Velma Wallis, “Two Old Women”
- Kaitlyn Kressalt, Moscow, Idaho Dr. Seuss
Letters About Literature: The Letters
Below are some excerpts from letters written by the six national winners:
Written by Lara Bagdasarian to Francisco Jiménez, author of “The Circuit”
“I used to think my dad was too hard on me. Whatever I did just wasn’t good enough for him. … Your book made me feel a lot better about my dad. I am now sure that he cares about me and he is just trying to help me become a better person. “The Circuit” has helped me understand my dad and realize his good intentions. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories with me.”
Written by Reagan Nelson to Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” series.
“‘Little House on the Prairie’ showed me that life is nothing but transition, and change is inevitable. The Ingalls knew this, and your book showed me I can rely as they did, on family, faith and community to get me through. I have learned that wherever the greatest challenge exists in my life is where the greatest growth is, too. ‘Little House’ taught me that it isn’t the tough times that define us, but rather our response to the challenges we face which makes us who we are. And that is the real gift for which I thank you.”
Written by Marissa Meier to John Bibee, author of “The Magic Bicycle”
“Your book, ‘The Magic Bicycle,’ provided a strange, yet accurate mirror of my brother and I, which showed me how beneficial it is to concentrate on the good, instead of the bad. … Having a sibling with special needs, I found myself strangely mirrored by the protagonist, John. Towards the beginning of the story, when John finds himself stuck with his strange new bike, he was not exactly thrilled. … It was when his bike first lifts off the ground that he comes to the same realization I had about my brother; he’s not just different, he’s unique, exceptional, and irreplaceable, and my life will never be the same.”
Written by Siori Koener to J.D. Salinger, author of “The Catcher in the Rye”
“I would like to thank you for writing ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ Where I’m from, people know me as the ‘weird girl.’… I’m different; therefore, I’m strange. I had always thought that I’d be the only one who was peculiar. The thought of being so unusual that it repelled people away from me crawled in the tiny crevices of my mind, sometimes overtaking my head until it threw me into short periods of muted sadness. I had always thought I was the only one who was like this, until I read your book.”
Written by Anna Wichorek to Velma Wallis, author of “Two Old Women”
“As I read ‘Two Old Women,’ I realized that, like the tribe that had abandoned Ch’idzigyaak and Sa’ because they had only seen ‘two weak old women,’ I had only seen a weak old man and had abandoned my grandfather. With this realization, I then began to look at my grandfather differently and I began to understand life from his perspective. I felt his humiliation, his frustration, and his wounded pride. … Instead of seeing a stubborn old man when I looked at my grandfather, I saw resilience, determination, and courage.”
Written by Kaitlyn Kressalt to Dr. Seuss
“It was not until I re-entered the colorful universes created between the covers of your books that taught me how to sound out my vowels and string together consonants that I realized these stories were more than just fun. I was shocked to discover that the stories I loved dealt with such real world issues as racism and social status. … Upon rediscovering your stories … I was reminded of my voice and its possible impact in the world today.”