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Public Information and Communication

November 25, 2002


Mary Jo Ryan

Deadline Nears for Student Entries for Letters About Literature Contest

December 6, 2002 is the deadline for students to enter the annual Letters About Literature national writing contest. Letters About Literature is a national reading promotion for children and young adults sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Weekly Reader Corporation, and locally coordinated through the Nebraska Center for the Book..

Contest participants compete on three levels: Level I for young readers in grades 4-6; Level II for young adult readers in grades 7-8; and Level III for readers in grades 9-12. Young readers are asked to write a letter to an author, living or dead, explaining how that author's work somehow "gave them wings" (Level I), became a part of their life (Level II), or changed their view of the world or themselves (Level III). Contest winners will be announced in April during National Library Week. Two national winners in each competition level will receive a $500 cash award. The Nebraska Center for the Book will select state finalists who will be honored by the governor and receive cash and other prizes..

Ben Keele of Hastings won first place at the senior level in the state competition last year. Ben was also the senior level runner-up in the national competition. Here is an excerpt from his letter to Ayn Rand regarding her novel, The Fountainhead:.

Another point I found intriguing was your conception of man's self-realization and his place in society. First, I agree with you that innovative ideas come from individual people. Therefore individual rights should be maximized to provide the optimal environment in which people can do what they wish, limited only by society's obligation to protect itself. But while self-realization and independence are important, I think you place them too high on the moral ladder. You advocate that people should only act if their actions directly advance their self-interest. Furthermore, you claim that no individual has an obligation to help anyone else. While I do not think the government should enforce altruism, I think people do have a moral obligation to help each other at times, and I think happiness and self-realization are achieved by altruism..

Nebraska's junior level winner in 2002 was Elizabeth McKim, who attends Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer Middle School. Elizabeth wrote a letter to Elizabeth George Spear to discuss her book, The Sign of the Beaver. An excerpt from her winning entry follows:.

I never have read a book that made the Indians so friendly. It showed me how two, very different cultures, can bind together and help each other out. It showed me that being generous could save someone's life.

I now realize how hard it is to live with only the simplest tools. Now I can't complain if I can't get something I want, but don't need. I don't know if I could live like the characters did, since I have been sheltered by technology my entire life.

Technology has changed the way I live, and other people in the world, and if taken away, it would completely change everyone's life.

Read Nebraska's winning entries in the 2002 Letters About Literature contest on the Library Commission Web site. Further information about the 2003 Letters About Literature contest may be found on the Library Commission Web site, or contact Mary Geibel at 402-471-2045 or 800-307-2665, for a print copy. Contest entry letters must be postmarked by December 6, 2002..


As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information. The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission home page, search on Library Commission News Releases.

For more information, contact Tessa Terry.