October 2010 Issue
September 28, 2010

New York at center of reading initiative

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United

Ellen Rubin

You could definitely call them love letters. New York's educators are being asked to encourage students in grades 4-12 to write letters to an author who has influenced their life.

The payoff comes not only in generating a personal connection between the writer and the reader, but in prizes ranging from $50 on the state level to $10,000 nationally for the Letters About Literature project.

In this state, the project is being promoted by the New York Library Association, which has been named Empire State Center for the Book by the Library of Congress. New York is one of 45 states and the District of Columbia to participate.

The designation, usually given to universities or state libraries, is the first for a library association, according to NYLA, which has a professional affiliation with NYSUT.

Project participants will compose a letter to an author — living or dead — about how a book, poem, short story or essay has impacted their lives. Writers will compete in different age groups for prizes. Six national winners will each receive a $500 Target gift card and a $10,000 reading promotion grant for the student's community or school library.

"Not only is it promoting literacy, but there is a push for writing," said Ellen Rubin, a retired school librarian and member of the Wallkill Teachers Association who is coordinator for the center's programs. "Research supports the link between reading and writing."

As Empire State Center for the Book, NYLA will host a book festival next April in Albany. Singer and author Roseanne Cash will be the keynote speaker. State winners for the letters project will be honored then.