Letters About Literature is a national reading initiative for students sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Massachusetts Center for the Book and other participating state centers for the book. The program invites 4th - 12th grade students from across the country to read a book of their choice, reflect on it, and write a letter to the author explaining how the book changed their life or view of the world.
As usual, Massachusetts was a high performing state with nearly 3000 letters submitted to the program this year.
Kudos are also extended to the following seventh grade students whose letters were recognized in the top ten percent (semi-finialist) and top five percent (honorable mention) and who will be receiving certificates of achievement:
Makenzie Luce for her letter to Walter Moers for the book The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear
Lollie Bezahler for her letter to Cat Patrick for the book Forgotten
Robert Hanjian for his letter to Sherman Alexie for the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Rose's letter to Sharon Draper about the book Out of My Mind was judged to be in the top one percent.
Dear Sharon Draper,
I had always wanted a baby sister. I was the only girl in between a gaggle of three boys. I wanted to do her hair, and put her in cute dresses as she wobbled, learned to crawl, and eventually walk. I wanted to hear her coo my name in that way baby girls do. Down the road, I dreamed of one would see her falling in love, getting married and having children. I wanted a best friend, to have forever and always. When I was 10 years old I received my only wish, and my mother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Lucy. She was born healthy and normal. Later we saw she wasn’t maturing like a normal baby would, well she was not “normal”. My baby sister was diagnosed with microcephaly, cerebral palsy, blindness and a few more disabilities. They said that she will never walk, talk, eat by herself or have the ability of any kind of cognitive movement, she would be stuck in a chair. Two years ago she mastered the skill of drinking from a cup. Last year she learned to eat solid foods with help. This week she rolled. She rolled for the first time ever, and in the years to come she may walk. My point is sometimes doctors say what they think are facts, but don’t put into mind these children's personalities. Sometimes they seem to not know anything. In Out of my Mind, Melody was said to not be able to talk, but she showed those doctors they were wrong. She showed them she could.
Your character of Melody has introduced me to a new state of mind. You take this girl who can not walk or talk, and give her a voice. Just like Melody, I believe my baby sister Lucy also has a voice, I also believe she is the smartest and most hardworking girl in the world. Some children are born with the gift of just naturally learning how to walk. Lucy and Melody were not, so they had to figure out how with lots of help. Walking for Lucy, or talking for Melody would be comparable to a running a marathon for a normal child, possible but difficult.
You took my sadness and turned it into inspiration. You opened up the light to the fact that when these children are born without communication, just because they can not walk, or see, we stick them into special classes trying always to separate them from “normal children” when all they want to be is “normal”, to make friends and show their talents like any other child. We may even sometimes underestimate them. Melody was underestimated, but eventually she proved her true self, and what she could do. Lucy is on her way to where Melody has already been, and I desperately hope she makes it. These kids have their own personalities, hopes, dreams and goals they are just different from ours. Melody has taught me this.
Your book taught me to be hopeful instead of sad, and to look into the future instead of contemplating why this happened to her, and wishing it hadn’t. I look forward now, and push away all of the boundaries. Anything is possible if you want it to be.
Thank you Sharon Draper your words have inspired me in ways I can not say. When I look at my baby sister now I do not see a blind, hopeless child, but instead a beacon of wisdom of what this world really is about, and I thank you.