By Emily Bialkowski
The ability to compose a well-written letter is powerful. Letters to politicians help generate new legislation. Letters to employers help generate job offers. Letters written by attorneys influence legal proceedings. Good letters go a long way.
In an effort to help her ninth graders practice persuasive writing skills, Caledonia English teacher Sue Link had her students select a book of their choosing (fiction or non-fiction) to read on their own time.
“For the assessment I decided to have them enter this contest and write the letters during class time. The letter had to be personal but persuasive explaining just how the author’s work changed their view of themselves or their world,” Link said.
The contest was sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Contest rules encouraged students to think about how the book showed them something about the world they hadn’t considered before; how the book helped them realize something about themselves; and why the book was meaningful.
Four students, including Hannah Cuda, Colton Lampert, Tristin Ott and Collin Reinhart, made it to the state round of judging.
The next round of judging was completed at the beginning of the month, and one of the students, Tristin Ott, received second place out of the 1,265 submissions from Minnesota.
“That’s pretty exciting news for our students and our school,” Link said.
When asked about their feelings on winning, the foursome played it cool. With a little pressing the students admitted to finding something special in the book they chose.
Hannah Cuda read “I Only Said I Didn’t Want You Because I Was Terrified.” She said the book made her realize that decisions made now can impact your whole life. “You should think about your future even though your young,” she said.
Colton Lampert read “Jim Candy,” a story about an athlete who lost everything after making a bad decision.
“It was about a guy that was becoming successful and then took steroids and it ruined his career. If you become successful in life one little thing can ruin you,” Lampert said.
Collin Reinhart read “Shiloh,” a book about a boy who saves a dog from a cruel owner.
“The main character saved the dog from getting beat. I felt like the boy should be proud for savings the dog,” Reinhart said.
Tristin Ott chose “The Communist Manifesto.” He said he selected the book because he wanted to learn more about different political philosophies.
“I expected to learn a lot, and change my opinions, but it changed my life and I’m being serious,” Ott said. An avid reader, Ott said he wrote about how the book made him feel differently about life and material wealth. “It made me feel kind of guilty about capitalism,” he said.
The students have found that a well-written letter can be engaging and worth congratulating.