Learn about the 2019-2020 Letters About Literature Contest!

We wanted to share the following information from our friends at the Texas Center for the Book about the 2019-2020 Letters About Literature Contest. You can find the complete press release here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/pressrelease/LAL2020

Letters About Literature Texas

The Texas Center for the Book has launched the 2019-2020 Letters About Literature Texas contest, a program that invites students to respond to authors of books or poetry who have touched their lives. The contest opened November 4, 2019, and is open to Texas students in grades 4 through 12.

Participants select a book, book series, essay, play poem, short story of speech that has made a lasting impact on their lives. They then write a personal letter to the author that reflects how they have been changed, inspired or motivated by the work they selected. State winners receive $100 and a trip to the 2020 Texas Library Association Conference.
 
All submissions for the 2020 contest must be submitted on the new online submission platform by December 17, 2019, 5:00 p.m. (CST).  A permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on November 4, 2019.

To learn more about the contest, how to submit and to view winning entries from previous years, visit www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature. The website also features an Educator Resources page including printable bookmarks and student handouts, participation certificates, key dates, permission forms, and a step-by-step teaching guide featuring writing prompts. The site also includes a Frequently Asked Questions page, student and teacher submission guidelines, letters from past winner, videos from authors, and the official contest rules.

After administering the contest for 27 years, the Library of Congress (LOC), has decided to give state centers full control over their Letters About Literature programs. In Texas, we are committed to continuing the contest at the state level using the LOC’s rubric, standards and judging framework. Although there will not be a national prize, we will stick with our Texas tradition of awarding a $100 cash prize to winners in all three levels, as well as providing travel assistance to the LAL Texas award ceremony at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference.

For more information on Texas Center for the Book initiatives, a project of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, visit www.tsl.texas.gov/centerforthebook or contact Ms. Manley at rmanley@tsl.texas.gov or 512-936-2505.

Books Are GEMS Named 2019 Recipient of the Texas Center for the Book Literacy Award

We are sharing this news from our friends at the Texas Center for the Book!

The Texas Center for the Book has announced that Books Are GEMS is the recipient of the fourth annual Texas Center for the Book Literacy Award. This $2,000 award, which honors a qualified 501(c)3 organization that has made outstanding contributions to increasing literacy in Texas, is modeled on the Library of Congress’ annual literacy awards. Funded by the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas (FLAT), the 2019 Literacy Awards also include two honorable mentions, awarded to the Austin-based Inside Books Project and Teen Bookfest by the Bay in Corpus Christi.

Books Are GEMS’ mission is to inspire children and empower families through literacy. A children’s bookstore located in El Paso’s beautiful lower valley, its programs have been growing in reach since its founding in 2003. Since then, more than 1.5 million books have been given away to local families.

All children who visit the bookstore may select six free children’s books (one new book and five gently used books) per month at no cost. Teachers may take up to 25 used children’s books twice per school year and have access to the Teacher Resource Room, where everything is free. Books Are GEMS partners with El Paso schools and organizations to distribute free books to children through various events organized throughout the year.

Through collaborations with El Paso Community College, the University of Texas at El Paso and several local high schools, students are trained to aid in general bookstore operations. This gives young adults the opportunity to fulfill school requirements while gaining new skills.

With a membership in the Rx to Read program, Books Are GEMS provides new books to local physicians to hand out to young patients with a “prescription” to read. Each participating pediatrician receives 50 books to distribute to patients. Studies of similar programs show that parents are more likely to read to young children if doctors encourage it. Those children also score six months ahead of their peers in literacy. The Rx to Read program has given out more than 30,000 books to date.

“Our little gem in El Paso, Texas, is honored to be recognized and receive this award,” said Books Are GEMS President Louie Gonzalez. “Our vision for El Paso is to ‘put a book into the hand of every child in our community, changing lives one book at a time.’ This award will support the Saturday Story Time program, putting at least 1,800 books in the hands of children and educators via our Six Free Books program.”

Honorable mention award recipients Inside Books Project and Teen Bookfest by the Bay will each receive an award of $500 in recognition of their efforts to promote reading and combat illiteracy.

Inside Books Project, founded in 1998, receives written requests from inmates for books and resource guides and sends publications back to the them; books become the personal property of the prisoner. In 2014, more than 18,000 requests were received, and Inside Books provided more than 35,000 free books to prisoners. During each volunteer session, dozens of volunteers learn about the hopes and challenges of Texas inmates from personally reading and responding to their requests.

Teen Bookfest by the Bay was founded in 2015 by a group of Corpus Christi Bay area school and public librarians for the express purpose of planning and providing an annual book festival for local teens. Librarians from school and public libraries in Corpus Christi, Orange Grove, Bishop, Aransas Pass, Gregory-Portland, Rockport, Robstown and other communities take part in the one-day event held every winter. Teens have the opportunity to meet published authors and to learn about the writing and publishing process. In the past, many librarians traveled with teens to other book festivals in Texas, the nearest of which is a three-hour drive from Corpus Christi. The goal of Teen Bookfest by the Bay is to bring that opportunity to students in the Corpus Christi Bay area who are unable to make that trip.

“We were delighted to receive 30 worthy applications from across the state in the fourth year of the Texas award. The purpose of this award is to highlight a winning organization, while promoting a greater appreciation and awareness of literacy efforts statewide,” said Texas Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley.

For more information on Texas Center for the Book initiatives, a project of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, visit www.tsl.texas.gov/centerforthebook or contact Ms. Manley at rmanley@tsl.texas.gov or 512-936-2505.

Established in 1987, the 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 provide support to our shared mission of promoting a love of literature throughout the Lone Star State. The Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission at the Lorenzo De Zavala State Archives and Library Building in Austin, Texas.


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.

Respectfully,

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.

Questions?

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