Woodbury students are finalists in national letter writing competitionEast Ridge High School students Claire Cheasick and Ceimoani Bumhrah are finalists in "Letters About Literature" letter writing competition.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Books can have a profound impact on its readers, but how often can someone share with the author how their words touched them?
One national competition, Letters About Literature, allows readers to do simply that.
The competition involves students across the country reflecting on a novel or poem that has in some way changed their view of the world. Students then write a letter to the author discussing their response.
East Ridge High School freshmen Claire Cheasick, of Woodbury, and Ceimoani Bumhrah, of Cottage Grove, have made it to the state finals.
Roughly 59,200 letters were submitted to the competition across country.
Each state selects three winners, in three age categories, to move onto the national finals.
Both Cheasick and Bumhrah are in the Level 3, grades 9 to 12, category.
The students entered the Letters About Literature competition thanks to East Ridge English teacher Diana Mallat.
Mallat assigned all of her English classes to enter the competition earlier this year.
“I try to encourage meaningful reading and help create successful writers,” Mallat said. “This particular competition allows students to reflect on a book they read that meant a lot to them – they get the chance to tell the author why they enjoyed their book.”
Mallat said she is not surprised that Cheasick and Bumhrah advanced to the state finals.
“Ceimoani and Claire are both mature, kind, reflective, and hard-working students,” she said.
For the competition, Cheasick wrote to author Mitch Albom, who wrote the book “For One More Day.”
“For One More Day” is about Charley “Chick” Benetto, who didn’t have the closest relationship with his mother growing up.
Later in life Chick has become a broken man after losing his job, his family and succumbing to alcohol and regret. He hits bottom after discovering his only daughter has shut him out of her wedding. And Chick eventually decides to take his own life.
With plans to do himself in, Chick first visits his old house, only to make an astonishing discovery – his mother is alive.
Chick’s mother had supposedly died eight years earlier, but she welcomes her son home like nothing had happened.
Cheasick said she chose “For One More Day” as the book to write about for the competition because she could relate to the theme of losing someone you love.
Cheasick’s grandmother had recently died, so she was able to pull from that experience when reading “For One More Day.”
“I really wish I could have spent more time with her,” she said. “She was important to me.”
Additionally, Cheasick said she could relate to Albom’s own life experiences, specifically growing up in a broken home.
“The author had a divorced family, so I can relate to that,” she said. “Plus, he felt different from everyone else, and that sometimes happens to me.”
Bumhrah chose “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,” by Jacqueline Kelly for the competition.
“I just kind of looked at my bookshelf and chose which one caught my eye,” Bumhrah. “I really like the cover, actually. I wasn’t really thinking about what’s in the book – it’s kind of striking.”
“The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” is about an 11-year-old girl living in 1899 who is curious about why the green grasshoppers are bigger than the yellow ones in her Texas backyard.
The girl turns to her cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, for help.
As Tate explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
After rereading “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” Bumhrah realized that she actually had many connections to the book.
“My extended family all live in India so I really don’t talk to them much – I didn’t know them at all,” she said. “But after I read the book, it kind of inspired me to reach out, speak to them and get to know them – I actually found a lot of connections.”
Bumhrah, who enjoys drawing, said she learned that her grandfather also draws and her great great grandfather was actually a painter.
“It was really cool because I didn’t know anything that my family did,” she said.
Through the competition, Bumhrah said she learned a lot.
“I learned that family is really important,” she said, “and I learned to be curious about where you come from.”
State winners will be selected and contacted within the next few weeks. National winners will be announced by the Library of Congress later this month.
If either of the girls’ letters is chosen for the national competition, they will be competing for the chance to designate a favorite library they wish to receive a $10,000 grant from Target. The students each receive a $500 Target gift card, Mallat said.
The state winners will be chosen later this month.
Both Cheasick and Bumhrah said they may consider entering the competition again..
“Your life is so busy, but if you just open a book, you’re not there sitting in your room under a light,” Bumhrah said, “you’re somewhere else like Hogwarts.”