2019 Letters About Literature Contest Winners Announced

Letters About LIterature banner

Nine students have won the state round of the 2019 Letters About Literature competition, sponsored in part by the Texas Center for the Book. This national reading and writing program, initiated by the Library of Congress, encourages 4th-12th graders to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book has affected their lives. Nationally, almost 30,000 students wrote letters this year, and since 1997, over one million students have participated.

This year’s Texas winners responded to a diverse set of authors.

Level 1 (grades 4-6):

  1. Asha Blewett of Addison wrote to Deborah Ellis.
  2. Chloe Nguyen of Addison wrote to Sharon Draper.
  3. Lukas Palys of Addison wrote to Jeanne DuPrau.

Level 2 (grades 7-8):

  1. Danielle Weatherwax of Dallas wrote to Sarah J. Maas.
  2. Rachel Herskovits of Dallas wrote to Eleanor Schick.
  3. Simon Sy of Edinburg wrote to Victor Hugo.

Level 3 (grades 9-12):

  1. Evelyn Wilson of Houston wrote to John Green.
  2. Haley A. Jústiz of Austin wrote to Jennifer L. Armentrout.
  3. Colby Menefee of Buffalo wrote to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

A total of 1,617 Texas students participated this year and shared their personal connections to literature. One hundred and sixty-one letters advanced to the third round of judging at The Texas Center for the Book, an office of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Judges scored the letters based on organization, idea development, language and emotional connection.

On April 16th, first place winners will read their letters and be honored at the Texas Association of School Librarians meeting at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association in Austin. These winning letters are now submitted for competition at the national level.

“Students made such profound connections with the written word,” commented Rebekah Manley, Coordinator of the Texas Center for the Book. “This opportunity takes words off pages, creates a heart connection to story and organically cultivates life-long readers.”

For a complete list of winners and their letters, visit: www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature. The Texas Center for the Book is one of 50 state centers affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, TCFB promotes books, literacy, and reading through various activities.

Free Books and Webinar for Statewide Community Read

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) recently launched their second statewide community read. Read Across Texas – Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion kicks off this spring, with libraries throughout the state signing up to host reading and discussion programs.

Find out more at our webinar on Tues., Mar. 19 at 2:00pm Central when TCFB’s Coordinator Rebekah Manley will discuss the resources and book grants. Our special guest Rev. Jennifer Elisa Veninga, Ph.D. will give insight on leading conversations about compassion. Dr. Veninga is a Professor of Religious and Theological Studies from the School of Arts and Humanities at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

Please note, there are limited book grants available through the Read Acoss Texas program. If you are interested in doing this program, be sure to submit an application for your books asap: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas

Join us for Read Across Texas

Read Across Texas

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) invites libraries and community non-profits to join in a statewide reading campaign. Read Across TexasKnow Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion kicks off this March, with libraries throughout the state signing up to host reading and discussion programs. Libraries can apply for books and get all the information they need at the Read Across Texas webpage. Read on for a letter from our State Librarian Mark Smith, followed by information from the recent press release.

Dear Texas Library Colleagues,

I am very pleased to introduce “Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion,” the 2019 theme for Read Across Texas, a project of the Texas Center for the Book.

We intend for this exciting project, which suggests four profoundly moving books in each of four genres, to provide the basis for a series of community conversations about how to encourage civility, compassion, and stronger communities.

We hear so much nowadays about the divisions in our society that keep people from coming together and interacting as neighbors and fellow citizens. Libraries are key elements of a social infrastructure that provide a valuable place for social engagement and interaction. The titles we are encouraging communities to read in this year’s statewide reading program, explore ideas of how to overcome our divisions and connect with our neighbors on a sustaining, human level.

I have read all four books and I can personally recommend all of them. Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle is a sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of his work helping gang members in Los Angeles to gain employable skills—and the best book on compassion I’ve ever read. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman is a heartwarming and funny story about how people are so much more than our first impressions. The Strange, a graphic novel by Jérôme Ruiller, uses animal-like figures to explore the plight of strangers in a strange land. And Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is an award-winning picture book in which an immigrant mother and her son find a welcoming and enriching place in their local public library.

I hope you will consider participating in “Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion” to use these books to bring your community together in a discussion of our shared values as Texans and Americans. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing book sets, made possible by our Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, to as many libraries as possible as well as a toolkit including questions that you can use to spark quality discussions. Please visit www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas to apply for books and peruse the resources.

Thank you for what you already do to cultivate compassionate communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this worthwhile program.


Mark Smith
State Librarian

More about Read Across Texas!

The TCFB sponsors Read Across Texas to encourage meaningful discourse. The campaign features four book selections that explore the complex topic of what it means to “know your neighbor” and encourages communities to engage in challenging, insightful and transformative conversations. Each community can choose a title from the recommended list and hold a book discussion on what cultivating compassion can look like within that community

TCFB, which is administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, is also making available grants to libraries to help them buy books that can be used in group discussions. Libraries and organizations can access an online step-by-step facilitator toolkit that includes materials such as a how-to guide, additional recommended titles, digital resources and links to discussion questions. The toolkit along with the program registration form and grant application are available at tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

Activities for Read Across Texas begin in March, but libraries and organizations may conduct programs throughout the spring and summer. Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion offers libraries a broad canvas for convening individuals and groups together to explore the unique questions, challenges and solidarity that can occur in communities throughout the state.

Established in 1987, the Texas Center for the Book seeks to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. The Center builds partnerships with library professionals, educators, authors, publishers and booksellers who work to promote a love of literature throughout the Lone Star State. One of 50 state centers affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin, Texas.

Learn about the 2018-2019 Letters About Literature Contest!

Letters About Literature BannerInterested in encouraging your students or patrons to participate in Letters About Literature? The Texas Center for the Book has updated their Letters About Literature website with new submission steps, rules and forms! Visit the website here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature

What is Letters About Literature?

All fourth-12th graders are invited to participate in this contest that invites them to write a letter to an author who moved them. The 2018-2019 contest will open on Nov. 1, 2018, with Texas submissions due to the new online submission platform by Dec. 14, 2018.

Please read the submission steps and official rules from the Library of CongressA permission form is required for all students entering who will be under the age of 13 on Nov. 11, 2018.

If you are interested in reading stellar examples, please check out the 2018 winners here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature/2018winners.


Please contact Rebekah Manley, Coordinator for the Center for the Book of Texas, at rmanley@tsl.texas.gov.