Several students at Langley Middle School have been busy making their marks with various literacy skills.
Seventh grader Katy-Rose Jordan of Langley and sixth grader Livia Lomne-Licastro, also of Langley, were chosen from among 3,368 Washington students as state finalists in the “2012 Letters About Literature Contest” sponsored by the Library of Congress.
Tristan Cortes, a seventh grader from Clinton, won a Major League Baseball Club package for his Breaking Barriers Essay about the challenges he faced moving as a young boy from Mexico to the United States. And seventh grader Kari Hustad of Clinton was named a state winner in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.
The students were assigned the projects by their Langley Middle School teachers Rachel Kizer, (seventh) and Rosie Donnelly (sixth).
Kari wrote a cursive sample and won an engraved Zaner-Bloser State Winner Medallion from the educational service company, an engraved rosewood box and pen from Kizer and a $200 Zaner-Bloser coupon. Her cursive sample now moves on to be judged with other state winners for the national award.
In her entry, Kari was asked how handwriting makes her a better reader and writer. She responded in cursive, of course.
My handwriting makes me a better reader and writer because it engages my brain and encourages me to be neater and write more succinctly, she wrote.
Kari, 13, commented on the surprising fact that she was a state winner, even though both her parents, in her opinion, have terrible handwriting. She will find out if she is a national finalist in May.
Tristan’s assignment was to write about “a barrier you have faced.”
The national Breaking Barriers Essay Contest is inspired by ball player Jackie Robinson and is sponsored by Major League Baseball and Scholastic. It received 9,700 entries in 2011. Tristan, 13, was one of 30 students awarded the club prize, which includes a set of baseball tickets to a major league season, a framed winner’s certificate and a set of T-shirts.
In the opening line of his essay, Tristan wrote: The plane’s wheels screech on the concrete runway like finger nails on a chalkboard. I walk out of the airport and take my first steps into America. As a 6-year-old moving from my hometown in Mexico to the United States it was a struggle.
Although Tristan knew no English when he arrived seven years ago, his English is excellent today without a trace of his Mexican roots in his pronunciation. He said making friends was one of his biggest barriers, but staying strong and courageous was the key to his success, just as the first African-American major league baseball player had to do.
Tristan said he could relate to what Robinson went through, feeling like he was on the outside and not being accepted into the group. He overcame his fears and now is an essay contest prize winner.
In the Letters About Literature contest, only 98 finalists made the cut in Washington out of the more than 3000 entries, which Donnelly introduced to middle school students beginning in 2007.
Katy-Rose, who is almost 13, was one of 49 Level 2 finalists (grades 7 and 8) and Livia, 12, was one of 29 Level 1 finalists (grades 4, 5 and 6.)
Both girls will join all the state finalists in the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia in May at a recognition ceremony for their achievement.
The Letters About Literature program encourages young readers to write letters to their favorite authors to share how the author’s book has had an impact on them.
Katy-Rose wrote to Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” because she was inspired by the book’s treatment of the injustices against African Americans in the United States.
“I’ve gotten some racist comments on my Chinese origin,” Katy-Rose said.
“I’ve always been one who has been indignant about injustice. It’s all about the shade of our skin and it shouldn’t matter.”
Katy-Rose said that “The Help” is her favorite book and that she appreciates the story’s depiction of small town Mississippi in 1962 during the American Civil Rights Movement and the struggle of one of its main characters Aibileen, an African- American maid.
“I think this book captures what happened,” Katy-Rose said. “And I know a lot of people would like to pretend it didn’t happen, but it did. That’s one of my favorite things about this book. It really portrayed something in human history that was important.”
In her letter to Stockett, Katy-Rose wrote: I can only wish that other readers of your book feel as I do. I wish that this world would exist as a place where all men are equal, where everyone gets the same opportunities, and no one has to feel ashamed of who they are. … Your book gave me this hope, and I will hold onto it forever.
Livia, 12, wrote to Tamora Pierce, author of “The Song of the Lioness Quartet” series about her admiration for the stereotype-defying main character.
“All her books are about strong women based in a truly beautiful world called Tortall,” Livia said.
“I wrote about “Allana: The First Adventure” about a girl who wanted to be a knight, but because she was a girl she had to learn magic to be proper, maybe a healer, but she just didn’t want to.”
Fantasy is definitely her favorite, Livia said, and Pierce’s books have inspired her to write her own novel, on which she is currently at work.
“I’m writing a novel about a girl who is a clone, but she doesn’t know it,” Livia said.
In her letter to the author, Livia told Pierce that her books have given her strength during hard times in her life. She wrote: Your books have changed the way I look at myself. Your books have given me wings of courage and of hope, and I thank you with all of my being.
What all these students came away with from entering these contests are not only beaming, proud teachers, but also a sense of wanting to keep trying.
“I’m in sixth grade and we can still enter,” Livia said. “And, who knows, we could be a national winner one day.”
Katy-Rose said winning felt satisfying.
“With contests I’m always like, ‘I’m not gonna win, I’m not gonna win,’ and usually I don’t win. It was nice to be recognized because I wasn’t really expecting it,” she said.