Students Invited to Participate in 2021-2022 Letters About Literature Texas Competition

Banner for Letters About Literature Texas

The Texas Center for the Book’s website is updated for the 2021-2022 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 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 will be honored at 2022 Texas Library Association Conference.

Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest for 4th-12th graders under the direction of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The submissions will open on Nov. 4, 2021, and all submissions for the 2021 contest must be submitted on the new online submission platform by Dec. 17, 2021, 5:00 p.m. (CST). A permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on Nov. 4, 2021.

To learn more about the contest, how to submit and to view winning entries from previous years, visit: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature.

The website also features an Educator Resources page including a new TEKS guide, 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

Read Across Texas 2021: Free E-Books and Registration Call

Logo for Read Across Texas Recovery

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) invites libraries, community nonprofits, and readers statewide to join in its 2021 reading campaign, Read Across Texas: Recovery. This year, thanks to the E-Read Texas partnership with Biblioboard, access to the e-book versions of We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a TimeAll of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing; and Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here will be available to all Texas residents in May and June by visiting www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks.

Libraries and organizations across Texas are invited to participate by using books to open dialogue and explore what “recovery” could mean within their communities. Visit the Read Across Texas website to register your library’s program, download discussion resources, and access free e-books for your program and your patrons in May and June. We hope libraries and organizations will register their participation for the good of the program. Each library or organization that registers will be entered to win a $100 BookPeople gift card. After your program, please share photos and stories. Please be sure to share photos and posts on social media (Facebook: Texas Center for the Book, Twitter: @TSLAC #ReadAcrossTexas).

The TCFB will also host a free, online author event on May 19. Libraries and organizations statewide can access an online step-by-step facilitator toolkit that includes materials such as a Read Across Texas how-to guide, additional recommended titles, digital resources and links to recovery specific discussion questions. The toolkit along with the program registration form and details are available at tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

Read Across Texas: Recovery offers libraries a broad canvas for convening individuals and groups to explore the unique questions, challenges and solidarity that can occur in communities throughout the state. During a period of extreme difficulties, isolation and loss, the TCFB recognizes the importance of sharing our stories to build understanding and support. Literature can be one of the many routes to recovery. This year’s campaign features four book selections that will give communities a platform to engage in challenging, insightful and transformative conversations.


banner for Things You Would Know

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here  by Nancy Wayson Dinan considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for All of a Sudden and Forever

All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing by Chris Barton, illustrated by Nicole Xu, considers tragedy, hope and healing and was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for We Fed an Island

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés with Richard Wolfe describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Book cover for What Unites Us

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner documents Rather’s witness to historical change, offering a map to trace where we have been and what might be a way forward to heal division.


Celebrating #TXBookChat Author Don Tate

In honor of Black History Month, we would like to continue the celebrations by recognizing the incredible work of author and illustrator Don Tate, one of our #TXBookChat spotlight authors. In his prolific career, Don has authored one book illustrated by someone else, authored-illustrated three published books (with two more on the way), and illustrated 80+ trade and educational picture books. Through his work, Don showcases narratives from Black history.

His words and illustrations provide children the opportunities to view history from a Black artists’ perspective, which is incredibly important when we consider the lack of representation in children’s literature. Don believes in the importance of telling children the truth and not sugar-coating history. His extensive research and incredible talent pair together to provide literary treasures.

We will highlight a handful of his powerful titles and encourage readers to check out the full list of his publications on his website: www.dontate.com/.


Book cover of William Still and His Freedom Stories: Father of the Underground Railroad

William Still, known as the Father of the Underground Railroad, collected the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers and reunited many formerly enslaved families, while building a remarkable collection of records. He worked with Harriet Tubman, Henry “Box” Brown, William and Ellen Craft, and many other key figures of the abolitionist movement from his base in Philadelphia.


Book cover of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time away from his master, though not his freedom. He became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.


Book cover of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

A biography of outsider artist Bill Traylor, a formerly enslaved Alabama man who at the age of 83 began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life.


Book cover of No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and his Kingdom in Kansas

An incredible, true story of how one of history’s most successful potato farmers began life enslaved, purchased farmland after emancipation, and worked until he was named the “Potato King of the World”!


Book cover of Hope's Gift

A poignant story celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Watch the recording of Don’s recent #TXBookChat discussion here!

Students Invited to Participate in 2020-2021 Letters About Literature Texas Competition

The Texas Center for the Book has launched the 2020-2021 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 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 will be honored at 2021 Virtual Texas Library Association Conference.

Image of girl reading a book. Includes text that reads: Letters about Literature Texas: Entries accepted November 4 - December 17, 2020.
Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest for 4th-12th graders under the direction of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

All submissions for the 2020 contest must be submitted on the new online submission platform by Dec. 17, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (CST). A permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on Nov. 4, 2020.

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.

Students Invited to Participate in 2020-2021 Letters About Literature Texas Competition

Letters About LIterature banner

The Texas Center for the Book has announced the 2020-2021 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 opens November 4, 2020, and is open to Texas students in grades 4 through 12.

Participants select a book, book series, essay, play poem, short story, or 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 travel assistance for the 2021 Texas Library Association Annual Conference.
 
All submissions for the contest must be submitted through the online submission platform by December 17, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (CST).  permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on November 4, 2020.

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 winners, videos from authors, and the official contest rules.

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.

First Edition of #TXBookChat Featuring Bethany Hegedus “Living a Life for the Books”

Join us for a special conversation with Bethany Hegedus, author and owner of The Writing Barn. Ms. Hegedus will be interviewed by Rebekah Manley, Coordinator for the Texas Center for the Book, in a program entitled Living a Life for the Books. Ms. Hegedus has published biographies on Gandhi, Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, and Jimmy Carter and is well known in writing circles.

When: Thursday, July 9, at 11:00 a.m CDT.   Eventbrite Registration here.

The #TXBookChat series offers brief discussions and programs with authors, librarians, and literary professionals. These informal “coffee chats” last about 30 minutes and offer a quick look into different aspects of the state’s literary world. The #TXBookChat series seeks to bring together diverse voices and perspectives.

Woman smiling with title Living a Life for the Books


 Upcoming Live Events:

Thursday, July 9, 2020, 11 a.m. CDT

Living a Life for the Books: Bethany Hegedus

Free Online Event  



Thursday, August 6, 2020, 11 a.m. CDT

Write NOW Session: Claire Campbell

Free Online Event  


Thursday, August 20, 2020, 11 a.m. CDT

How to Draw From History: Developing Characters Today with Don Tate

Free Online Event  

Top Texas Indie Authors to be Honored at Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Image of books and logos

In November 2019, following a concerted effort by Library Journal and public librarian book reviewers across the state, books by Scott Semegran of Austin and Michelle Rene of Dallas were chosen as the two best independently published books in Texas. On February 6, both authors will be honored by the library and publishing communities for their accomplishments at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin. Semegran and Rene will also be eligible for the North America-wide 2020 Indie Author of the Year Award, which will be presented at the Public Library Association (PLA) conference in late February.

In addition to hearing from this year’s winners, attendees will get a snapshot of the emerging creative relationships forming between public libraries and independent authors and hear from librarians and publishing professionals in Texas about the state of indie and self-publishing. The event, which will be followed by a happy hour, also provides a valuable opportunity for networking among the Texas book community.

The Texas Author Project is part of the Indie Author Project (IAP), a larger effort focused on public libraries finding and elevating the best indie and self-published books across North America. IAP is a collaborative publishing and curation community that includes Library Journal and IAP regional indie book contests run across hundreds of North American libraries each year. IAP-curated collections make it easier for librarians to add curated and award-winning content from local and indie authors to their print and digital collections.

Mitchell Davis, CEO of Indie Author Project creator BiblioLabs, believes these partnerships provide a new vision for the discoverability of new writers and provide a valuable role for public libraries in the changing world of books and reading. “As the program has developed and matured over the past few years, we have built a network of hundreds of librarians who are directly engaged in finding and promoting their best local authors. The curated collections, including winners, finalists and shortlist eBooks of North American regional contests, represent the cream of the crop. We are so proud to work with libraries across Texas and look forward to working with our winning authors in Texas throughout the coming year,” says Davis.

The event is free and interested attendees can learn more and RSVP now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/texas-author-project-awards-reception-tickets-88961505257.

For more information, please see the original press release.

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.