Two junior high school-level students have been named winners in this year's Letters About Literature essay contest, which is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Weekly Reader Corp. Approximately 20,000 students and 100 judges from across the country participated in this national reading-writing program this year.
Letters About Literature invites students to write a personal letter to an author -- living or dead -- explaining how the author's work somehow changed their lives.
Kelly McAnerney, a seventh grade student at Seneca Valley Middle School in Harmony, Pa., won the national prize in Level I competition, grades 4-7, for her letter to Jerry Spinelli, author of the humorous young adult novel Crash. Penn, a misfit character in the novel, helped Kelly to see the maliciousness of teasing and bullying that goes on in her own school environment.
She wrote Spinelli, "Crash pushed me into doing what I'd often denied my conscience: being nice. Your novel handed me a new pair of sneakers to walk life's roads, and they fit wonderfully."
Bradley Farberman, an eighth grade student at Woodmere Middle School in Hewlett, N.Y., won the national prize in Level II competition, grades 8-12, for his letter to Woody Guthrie about Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory. The book inspired Bradley, who like Guthrie, writes songs and plays a guitar. After reading Bound for Glory, Bradley made a commitment to himself to "speak his mind and to talk real loud" about hope and beauty. He would love one day to travel across the country, as Woody Guthrie did, singing songs about everyday Americans.
"Books give young people wings," said Cathy Gourley, director of the national program, "wings to cope with peer pressure and parental divorce, wings to rise above prejudice and discover a pride in cultural and racial heritage. These were just some of the themes students explored in their letters this year."
State-level winners were also selected by 26 participating state center for the book affiliates. For further information call Weekly Reader at (203) 705-3500.
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading and libraries. Its program, which is supported mostly by private funds, reaches into every region of the country through a network of 36 affiliated state centers and more than 50 national educational and civic organizations. For more information about the Center for the Book, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook.