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Kalamazoo, Mancelona and Saginaw Students' 'Letters About Literature' Earn Statewide Awards, Donations for Local Libraries

Contact: Casey Warner (517) 373-5578

April 6, 2009

The Michigan Center for the Book today announced the three state winners of Letters About Literature, a national writing contest in which young readers wrote letters to authors, living or dead, describing how the authors' work changed the students' way of thinking. One of the state winners also received recognition at the competition's national level.

"We received many thoughtful, heartfelt letters that demonstrate the power of books to touch the lives and engage the minds of young people," said Michigan Center for the Book Coordinator Karren Reish. "Each year we welcome this opportunity to help foster Michigan students' interest in literature and encourage them to cultivate the reading and writing skills that are key to academic success."

Michigan winners each will receive a letter of recognition and a $50 Target gift card. In addition, each winner's school or community library will receive a $300 Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant. Funding for these donations is provided solely by the National Center for the Book in partnership with Target.

The Michigan winners are:

  • Level 1 (grades 4-6) - Valerie Reeves of Mancelona (Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant to Mancelona Middle School Media Center), who wrote to author Erin Hunter about the book Warriors: Dawn.

    Reeves reflected on how the book taught her about the value of teamwork and leadership, writing: "When I was younger, I sometimes felt like I was a loner at school. I always wanted my mom to go to school with me because I didn't want to be alone. I felt just like the rogue cat, Yellow Fang, who was without a clan. After reading your book, Warriors: Dawn, I found I wanted to be a warrior, too."

  • Level 2 (grades 7-8) - Daniel Harrison of Kalamazoo (Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant to Mattawan Consolidated School, Middle School Library), who wrote to author Ben Mikaelsen about the book Touching Spirit Bear.

    In his letter, Harrison expressed how the book inspired him to change his negative behavior: "About two years ago, I had been a real bully. I used to pick on kids and call them names and not even realize how much of a jerk I was. I had been in trouble a couple times, and ended up in detention. It was there, ironically, where I read your book, Touching Spirit Bear. It transformed my life."

  • Level 3 (grades 9-12) - Nilesh Raval of Saginaw (Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant to Butman-Fish Library Branch of the Public Libraries of Saginaw), who wrote to author Jhumpa Lahiri about the book The Namesake. Raval also was named one of 12 Letters About Literature national honorable mention winners (four per level of competition) and will receive an additional $100 Target gift card and an additional $1,000 grant for the selected library.

    Raval's letter described lessons learned about pride in our unique cultural heritage and identity: "After reading your culturally enlightening novel, The Namesake, I have realized the importance of my name in Indian culture and that I am not alone when it comes to possessing an unusual one. ... The Namesake has compelled me to understand that a name has an inherently profound power to shape its bearer. It has bestowed upon me a newfound respect for names in our culture."

Young readers across the country participated in this year's Letters About Literature competition, a reading promotion program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, presented in partnership with Target. Six national finalists will receive a $500 Target gift card and $10,000 for their community or school library.

To enter, 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 classic. The contest theme encourages young readers to explore their personal response to a book, then express that response in a creative, original way.

The Michigan Center for the Book (MCFB) organizes Letters about Literature at the state level. A program of the Library of Michigan and the center's affiliates, MCFB encourages and produces local and statewide programs and resources that promote books, reading, authors and libraries. For more information about the Michigan Center for the Book and its programs, visit

The Library of Michigan is part of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Dedicated to enriching quality of life and strengthening the economy by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan's heritage and fostering cultural creativity, the department also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Historical Center.

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