Published November 2008 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd LETTERS ABOUT LITERATURE COMPETITION PROMOTES READING FOR STUDENTS Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, the three "R's," was the way we were taught when I was young and attended a two-room schoolhouse. I would go to school during the day, finish my chores and homework in the early evening and then fall asleep reading by the light of a kerosene oil lamp. I looked at education as an opportunity to excel and to this day I'm not too old to keep learning. Education, to me, has been a passport to progress.
While education is universal in our country today, it is perhaps hard for some to realize just how much a high school diploma was coveted only a couple of generations or so ago - or actually how few people had one.
Our young people today seem more pre-occupied with video games, watching television, and listening to the latest and loudest music. They are no longer eager to open a book and turn its pages to reveal the next opportunity to stimulate the mind.
But the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has launched an exciting new program called Letters About Literature (LAL). It is a nationwide writing contest that celebrates the relationship between young readers and authors. Students are invited to write a personal letter to an author explaining how his or her work somehow changed the reader's view of the world.
Letters About Literature provides a challenging opportunity to young readers by asking them to write to a particular audience, or explain or describe his or her personal reader response to the work they had just read. This encourages meaningful reading and helps to create successful writers. Competition is grouped into three grade categories: 4 - 6; 7 & 8; and 9- 12.
In addition to the educational rewards students obtain from this exercise, each year LAL awards more than 150 state-level prizes. The program also selects six national winners, each of whom will earn for their individual community or school library a $10,000 Letters About Literature Reading Promotion Grant. Twelve national honorable mention winners will each earn a $1,000 grant for the community or school library of their choice.
So I encourage all West Virginia students to participate in this reading and writing competition. The development of the human mind is all too important in this ever changing global environment. Go to the LAL website, www.Jettersaboutliterature.org to obtain how to enter guidelines. But you better hurry, as the postmark deadline for this competition is December 6, 2008. Good luck and good reading.
November 12, 2008