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Student "Letters About Literature" Writers Win Accolades and National Awards!

Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Communications (517) 241-4395
Agency: Education

May 10, 2011 LANSING – The Michigan Center for the Book announced Michigan's award winners and finalists for the national Letters about Literature contest today.
Letters about Literature is an annual contest sponsored by the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. In the program, young readers write letters to authors, living or dead, describing how the authors' work changed their lives. Students participate through classroom activities or individually. Target is the sponsor for Letters about Literature program.

For the first time, Michigan has a national winner – Ashli Bynum of Ada, who wrote to author Marge Piercy about the poem "Barbie Doll." Bynum's letter spoke of how she hopes society can begin to accept those who do not meet a physical ideal.

"Every person has something to offer this world, no matter who they are or what they look like," Bynum wrote. "After all, even though a can is damaged, it still holds the same contents as an undamaged can."
Bynum is a State and National Level III winner (grades 9-12), with Forest Hills Northern High School receiving a $10,300 Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant.,

"We are delighted to have this opportunity to encourage students to cultivate these deep reading skills that are key to academic and lifelong success and to help schools and libraries provide these opportunities," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan.

Michigan Center for the Book Coordinator Karren Reish said, "We received so many letters from students that reflected their understanding of the issues in the books they read and the impact and value reading has for them. The program vividly demonstrates the power of books to engage the minds of young people. Letters about Literature gives students a chance to learn that literature can change their lives."
Letters about Literature Winners:

State Level I winner (grades 4-6) – David Carpenter of Clarkston ($300 Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant to Sashabaw Middle School), who wrote to author Louis Sachar about the book Holes.

In his letter, David spoke about how reading the novel taught him about the true meaning of friendship. "Real friends are the types of friends that take a stand and do what's right."

State Level II winner and National Honor Award Level II winner (grades 7-8) – Heather Wiggins of Kalamazoo ($1,300 Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant to the Mattawan High School Library Media Center), who wrote to author Sara Holbrook about the poem "Finals."

Heather gained perspective on a death in her family through reading Holbrook's poem. "Because of your words I've learned what it feels like to move on but never still saved me..."

State Finalists

  • Maximillian Finazzo of Grosse Pointe – Level I
  • Martha Steupert of Clarkston – Level I
  • Olivia Reeves of Beverly Hills - Level I
  • Andrew Schmidt of St. Joseph – Level II
  • Emily Merlo of Kalamazoo – Level II
  • Valerie Reeves of Mancelona – Level II
  • Dorothy Dickinson of Grand Rapids – Level III
  • Kim Pais of Troy – Level III
  • Taylor Laird of Allegan – Level III

Teacher of the Year Shelley

Garland of Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe is the 2011 Michigan Letters about Literature Teacher of the Year.
You can read the complete letters at

National winners receive a $500 Target gift card and a $10,000 Target Reading promotion grant for the library of their choice. National honor award winners receive a $100 Target gift card and $1,000 Target Reading promotion grant for the library of their choice. State winners receive a $50 Target gift card and $300 Target Reading promotion grant for the library of their choice. State finalists receive a $20 gift card to Schuler Books & Music courtesy of the Michigan Center for the Book.

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. Funding comes solely through grants and membership dues. For more information about the Michigan Center for the Book and its programs, visit

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