Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

October 24, 1997

Library of Congress Center for the Book Expands Literature Project

Beginning in January 1998, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress will expand its popular "Letters About Literature" essay contest to include elementary as well as junior and senior high school students. Over the past four years, more than 40,000 students have participated in this annual program, which invites students to write a letter to an author -- living or dead -- explaining how that author's work somehow changed the student's way of thinking about the world. The contest is co-sponsored with the Weekly Reader Corporation.

"The 'Letters About Literature' contest focuses on the special and private relationship between an author and a reader," said Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole in announcing the contest's expansion. "In 1998, two competition levels -- one for students in grades 4 through 7, the other for grades 8 through 12 -- will be offered for the first time. The national Center for the Book will select a national winner for each level, and 27 of our affiliated state centers will participate by selecting the top essayists for each level within their states.

'Letters About Literature' is an important component of our Building a Nation of Readers national reading promotion campaign between now and the year 2000." According to national project coordinator Catherine Gourley, the growth in the number of contest entries in recent years has been matched by a significant improvement in the quality of the writing and in the diversity of the books about which the students have written. "The letter format encourages students to write honestly and openly to an author about the meaning of the book rather than to summarize the story's plot," she said.

For a copy of the guidelines and an official entry coupon, teachers and students may call Weekly Reader Corporation at (203) 705-3500. The Center for the Book was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. For further information, visit the center on the World Wide Web at:

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PR 97-183
ISSN 0731-3527

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