August 16, 2004
Dear Teachers of Reading and Writing:
Two years ago, seventeen organizations collaborated to open the
Iowa affiliate of the National Center for the Book. The Center
promotes literacy, reading, writing, and libraries in Iowa.
Last year I participated in the first award ceremony for "Letters About Literature," one of the programs
sponsored by many Centers for the Book around the country. I was
so proud of our Iowa students who participated. Several of their
letters were recognized at the national level. The students wrote
so honestly and so perceptively about the books they chose that I
wanted to introduce more teachers to this program. We have so
many choices when it comes to encouraging our students to enter
contests. This is the kind of writing opportunity I would have
encouraged my students to take advantage of if I were still in
I would like to encourage all of you who have students in grades
four through twelve to participate in the Iowa Center for the
Book's program, "Letters About Literature
The project is sponsored nationally by the Center for the Book in
the Library of Congress and Target Stores. It is
supported in Iowa by the Iowa Reading Association and the Iowa
Association of School Librarians. It gives students the chance to
relate how a particular author has influenced their lives. Prizes
are awarded at both the state and national levels. The authors
written to may be current or from the past. The books written
about may be fiction or nonfiction, current or classic. The
letters are not book reports but rather an expression of how
students feel about particular authors or topics.
National "Letters for Literature 2005" Program
Director Catherine Gourley says, "Students who read,
write better; students who write, read more." As a
language arts teacher, I know that to be true.
The contest has three categories: grades 4 through 6; grades 7
and 8; and grades 9 through 12. What a great way to get kids
interested in and interacting with literature.
For more information about the contest, please go to www.iowacenterforthebook.org.
A complete explanation will be found on their website. Iowa
teachers and students are the best! Let's let the rest
of the country know that, too!
First Lady of Iowa
Comments from Teachers who Participated in
Rebecca Blount, Goodrell Middle School, Des Moines Community
"Thank you for the opportunity to enter these letters; the
students are very proud of their work and for many it is the
first time they have articulated their feelings to another person
Michelle Grimm, Maquoketa Valley Middle School, Delhi
"I just wanted to thank you for giving my students a
meaningful way to connect books and writing to their lives.
Although some of my students really struggle with writing, this
year many of them have certainly made some positive changes in
their lives due to the thinking they did to complete their
Mitzi Hetherton, Lawson Elementary School, Johnston
"Thank you for offering this experience. It made my students
think more deeply about connections they make with text. The
lessons that you provided were worthwhile and helpful to the