Children Write to the Library Of Congress
The Center for the Book and Weekly Reader Corporation sponsors a Letters About Literature Contest which invites our youth to write a personal letter to an author, living or dead. This year's contest has received 49,000 entries from young readers across the country. State winners have were selected in April and national judging has determined that a Pennsylvania girl and a budding New York folksinger won this year. The students' essays were read by 100 judges across the country. "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 explore in their letters this year." According to the contest web site:
- Kelly McAnerney, a seventh-grade student at Seneca Valley Middle School in Harmony, Pa., won the national prize from 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 see the maliciousness of the teasing and bullying that goes on in her school. 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 from 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 said he would like to travel across the country, as Woody Guthrie did, singing songs about everyday Americans.
The letters kids write to the Library of Congress are special, of course, but one additional benefit is the colorful art on the envelopes that the messages arrive in. Librarians appreciate kids' envelope art so much, they've posted some of it online.
"Opening just tens of thousands of pieces of mail can be very, very tiresome!" write the librarians at the Library of Congress, "But your envelope art made us (and the post office clerks, too!) smile. More than that, however, your artwork speaks volumes about how you view literature and your relationships with authors!" The libraarians channel their enthusiam by photographing the envelopes and uploading artwork.