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Public Information and Communication

April 5, 2010

Mary Jo Ryan

Young Nebraskans Win Writing Competition

Young Nebraska writers will receive Letters about Literature award certificates from Gov. Dave Heineman on April 7, 2010 at a proclamation-signing ceremony celebrating National Library Week, April 11-17, 2010. Letters about Literature is a national reading and writing promotion program. Just under 70,000 adolescent and young adult readers nationwide in grades 4 through 12 participated in this year's Letters About Literature program, which encourages young people to read, be inspired and write back to the author who has somehow changed their view of the world or themselves. This annual contest is sponsored nationally by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in partnership with Target Stores. Target sponsors Letters About Literature as part of its national reading initiative, "Ready. Sit. Read!," which is aimed at fostering a love of reading among children at an early age. Since opening its first store in 1962, Target has partnered with nonprofit organizations, guests and team members to help meet community needs. The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading.

The Nebraska competition is coordinated and sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska Library Commission, and Houchen Bindery Ltd. Young Nebraska writers to be honored are:


  • Haylie R. Roberts Pender, for Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan
  • Victoria Kolala, Omaha, for Think Big, by Ben Carson
  • Arash Hamidi , Omaha, for Torn Between Two Cultures, by Maryam Qudrat Aseel

Alternate Winners:

  • Mia Thomas, Bellevue, for Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
  • Megan Brookhouser, Omaha, for The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  • Shawn Gasseling, Alliance, for A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

More than 540 Nebraska students participated in the annual contest, compared to 250 entries last year. They wrote personal letters to authors explaining how his or her work changed their view of themselves or the world. They selected authors from any genre, fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic. Winners were chosen from three competition levels: upper elementary, middle, and secondary school.

The Nebraska winners will be honored at a luncheon, receive cash prizes and gift certificates to Target Stores, and their winning letters will be placed in the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors at Bennett Martin Public Library. They will advance to the national competition, with a chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. for themselves and their parents. For more information see, search on Letters About Literature.


The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state's readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission.

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 website,, search on News Releases

For more information, contact Tessa Terry.