District Students Understand Their Stories Through Reading

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District Students Understand Their Stories Through Reading

Essay Contest Promotes Reflection by Writing to Authors

"When I want water, I turn on the tap.  When it’s dark, I turn on the light.  While my life is so different than yours, I was still so touched by your books because they helped me to finally understand the life of someone I love: my father."

Alessandra Selassie, a fifth-grader at BASIS DC, wrote those words to author Laura Ingalls Wilder about how her stories helped her understand her father's experience in his native Eritria.  This Saturday, Allessandra and eight other students will be honored at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as winners in the 2013 Letters About Literature writing contest.

Sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the DC Public Library, the Letters About Literature contest asks students to write a letter to an author discussing how that author’s book changed their world view.

“Programs like Letters About Literature encourage reflective writing, which is an important skill for kids to develop,” said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the District of Columbia.  “When a writer's story becomes their story, it stays with them and makes them want to read more.”

Student entries included essays about how "The Pact" inspired them to create a circle of friends to support each other and how Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" made its reader appreciate their loved ones more.
There were 59 submissions from 15 schools in this year’s contest.  The essays were judged in three groups: level one for grades 4-6; level two for grades 7-8; and level three for grades 9-12.

While winning students received gift cards, Allessandra and the other students got much more.  "I know you wrote these books to help children understand the lives of American pioneers," she wrote, "but for me, it helped me see my father’s African childhood as being less foreign."

This Year’s Winners Are:

Level 1
1st Place – Alessandra Selassie
2nd Place – Jomo Goings
3rd Place – Ryan Bradley

Level 2
1st Place – Ife Calhoun
2nd Place – Djimon Wilson
3rd Place – Lilyanna D’Amato

Level 3
1st Place – Diana Hla
2nd Place – Princess Simms
3rd Place – Andrea Flemmings

About The Center for the Book
The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading.  The DC Public Library is the District of Columbia’s state center for the book. For information about its activities and national reading promotion networks, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook.