PORTLAND – Several area students have received awards from the Maine Humanities Council honoring their winning letters for the 2005 national student essay contest, “Letters About Literature.”

The contest is a national reading and writing program sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in partnership with Target Stores. More than 45,000 students participate nationwide.

The Maine Humanities Council’s Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book provides local funding and support necessary to bring the program to Maine. The contest was open to all fourth through 12th grade students. Entrants were asked to write a short letter to an author – living or dead – explaining how that author’s book changed their way of viewing the world and themselves.

The letters offer a chance for young readers to reflect on the work of their favorite authors, think about why reading their work was such an engaging experience, then express those thoughts and feelings.

More than 700 students from throughout Maine participated this year.

The following students received first-place awards: Sean Fay of Camden, grades four through six; Ansley White of Cumberland, grades seven and eight; and Katelyn Roedner of Saco, grades nine through 12.

The following students received second-place awards: Una Huang of Readfield, grades four through six; Josh Brown of Biddeford, grades seven and eight; Peter Nguyen of Kennebunk, grades nine through 12.

First-place winners in each level received cash awards of $100 and a $50 Target gift card and second-place winners, gift certificates for book purchases. Honorable mentions are also awarded to several students in each level.

The first place winners advance to the national competition where two students from each level will be awarded a $500 Target gift card. The winning students, their parents and teacher also receive a paid trip to the National Book Festival in Washington in the fall, where they will read their winning letters.

Area students who were semifinalists or attained honorable mentions were:

Edward Little High School, Auburn: Joe Griswold, honorable mention; Britney Mitchell, Danielle McConnell, Deacon Lasagna, Esther Schlotterbeck, Michael Muise and Shayna Johnson.

Livermore Falls Middle School: Kelsea Searles, honorable mention; Thomas Ventrella, Haldon Bernard, Kathrynn Lake and Stephanie Owens, semifinalists.

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