by Brian Zylstra | May 11th, 2012
From left: Samantha Smith, Oliver Reed and Clare Doran.
If you ever wonder if books can influence and inspire students, look no further than the winning letters submitted by the three new state champions in the annual Letters About Literature contest.
The annual contest, co-sponsored by the Washington State Library, encourages students to write letters to their favorite authors, living or dead.
The new Washington champions were honored are:
• Level 1 (grades 4-6): Clare Doran, a sixth grader at The Bush School in Seattle. Doran wrote her letter to Jamie Ford about his book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Part of Clare’s letter reads:
“Your book has made me realize that I am so lucky that I’m not treated how the Japanese-Americans were during World War II. Sometimes I feel guilty because I complain about little things like “I’m hungry!” or “I don’t want to clean my room”, not realizing that I have it easy. I don’t get called mean names just because of where I’m from and I don’t have to be punished
and sent away from my closest friends and neighborhood. Thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson of understanding other people around me who may have difficulties that I can’t see.”
• Level 2 (grades 7-8): Samantha Smith, an eighth grader at Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend. Smith penned her letter to Julie Anne Peters about her book Keeping You a Secret. An excerpt from Samantha’s letter:
“After I finished Keeping You a Secret, I made an effort to find other books like it. I
read more of your books, such as Far from Xanadu, Luna, and Define “Normal”, as well as books written by others with similar content, for example, Empress of the World by Sarah Ryan. I love how these books make me feel like I have friends in familiar situations. Even though they’re just book characters, they seem real. Sometimes their fictional actions give me the confidence that I didn’t have, to do things that I otherwise never would have done.”
• Level 3 (grades 9-12): Oliver Reed, a 10th grader at North Central High School in Spokane. Reed (no relation to the Secretary of State) wrote his letter to William Ernest Henley about his poem “Invictus.” From Oliver’s letter:
“Throughout my life, I have been held captive in the darkness, and it’s been terribly long. The tides have taken their toll, and enough is enough. The light is on, and I move onward. I have high goals and dreams to accomplish. I have people to meet and places to go. The darkness shall never again hold be back. Mr. Henley, your poem has turned my life right side up. I wake up every morning and I think about those last two lines, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”, and I know right away that I choose the path. I cannot thank you enough for how you have transformed my mindset.”
With family, friends, teachers and librarians in attendance, Doran, Smith and Reed were honored Friday afternoon by Secretary Reed in his office. The state three champions read their letters aloud.
All three of this year’s state champs were named as national runners-up in each level of the contest, the first time that’s happened since Washington joined the competition.
The state champion awards ceremony was covered by TVW, which will have the event available for viewing online and on TV.