Yesterday, at the close
of the Wisconsin Literary Bash during the Prairie Chicken Festival at the Mead Wildlife Area north of Milladore, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Center for the Book honored the winners of its 2007-2008 Letters About Literature program. I have been coordinator of Wisconsin's Letters About Literature program since last summer so, as you might imagine, I was front and center.
The mission of the Wisconsin Center for the Book is to promote the culture of the book by celebrating books and the book arts, encouraging the joy of reading and writing, and honoring Wisconsin's literary heritage. Letters About Literature is central in our effort to encourage the joy of reading reading and writing.
The LAL program (as we short-hand it) is sponsored in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Center for the Book, of which I am a board member, and on the national level by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in partnership with the Minneapolis-based Target stores, which provide a $50 gift card for each of our First Place winners.
To enter the Letters About Literature competition, young readers write a personal letter to an author, explaining how his or her work changed their view of the world or themselves. Readers can select authors from any genre – fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or class, prose or poetry. The program has three competition levels: 1 – upper elementary; 2 – middle school; and 3 – high school. It encourages young readers to explore his or her personal response to a book, then to express that response in a creative, original way.
This year, approximately 56,000 young readers across the country participated.
Nearly 850 of those young readers were from Wisconsin. Entries went to the national office, where its judges selected 79 entries as semi-finalists; these were returned to me to send to our Wisconsin judges, who selected our winners.
I am grateful for the good service of the six Wisconsin judges who named nine young winning writers as the best of the best. Thank you.
I am also grateful to Target for the gift cards, to Wisconsin-based Book World and its Ripon store for gift certificates, and to the Wisconsin Center for the Book for the checks. Thank you all!
Last year, in preparation for taking over the program from my predecessor, I attended the awards ceremony, which was held at St. Norbert College in Green Bay.
I went to the awards presentation thinking that the program was about books.
At the presentation, as the students read their letters aloud, it became clear to me that the program is really about life changing experiences – about the powerful difference a book can make in a young person's life, about the power of books in shaping our lives.
Yesterday we honored nine Wisconsin students - a First Place winner, a Second Place winner, and an Honorable Mention at each of the three levels - and we awarded their prizes:
For Honorable Mention: A framed certificate, a $5 Book World (Ripon) gift certificate, a copy of Tom Montag's The Idea of the Local, and a copy of Trinity's Fairy Tales & Nonsense CD.
For Second Place: A framed certificate, a $50 check from Wisconsin Center for the Book, a $10 Book World (Ripon) gift certificate, a copy of The Idea of the Local, and a copy of the Fairy Tales & Nonsense CD.
For First Place: A framed certificate, a $100 check from Wisconsin Center for the Book, a $50 Target gift card, a $15 Book World (Ripon) gift certificate, a copy of The Idea of the Local, and a copy of the Fairy Tales & Nonsense CD.
And the winners are:
LEVEL 1 WINNERS – 2007-2008
-- Honorable Mention: Sydnee Eckberg, writing about Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Sydnee is from Appleton, Wisconsin, where she is in 6th grade at Highlands Elementary School.
-- Second Place: David Johnston, writing about Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli. David is from Racine, Wisconsin, where he is in 4th grade; he is being home-schooled.
-- First Place: Matthew Stokdyk, writing about the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, specifically referencing "Evening Star," "The Raven," and "The Bells." Matthew is from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, where he is an 6th grade.
LEVEL 2 WINNERS – 2007-2008
-- Honorable Mention: Abby Mickelson, writing about Jennifer Armstrong's Shattered. Abby is from Barron, Wisconsin, where she is in 8th grade at Riverview Middle School.
-- Second Place: Kimberly Klammer, writing about Marie McSwigan's Snow Treasure. Kimberly is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she is in 7th grade at Whitman Middle School.
-- First Place: Taylor Kurowski, writing about Wendelin Van Draanen's Runaway. Taylor is from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she is in 8th grade at Parkview Middle School.
LEVEL 3 WINNERS – 2007-2008
-- Honorable Mention: D.B., writing about Travel Team by Mike Lupica. She is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where she's in 9th grade at North High School.
-- Second Place: Alexa Schultz, writing about Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco. Alexa is from Clintonville, Wisconsin, where she is senior at Clintonville High School.
-- First Place: Tracy Haack, writing about the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Tracy, too, is from Clintonville, Wisconsin, where she is also senior at Clintonville High School. (No, the judges did not know they were selecting two students from the same school.)
Please join the Wisconsin Center for the Book in congratulating these nine students. And, indeed, join us in congratulating all the students who were part of this year's Letters About Literature program. Everyone of the students who submitted a letter is a winner in my book!
NOTE: Students and/or teachers who have not yet participated in the Letters About Literature program can get more information by contacting the LAL coordinator, Tom Montag, at email@example.com or 920-346-5235. Guidelines for the 2008-2009 competition will be available at the end of August or early September.