The National Book Awards will be announced on Wednesday, November 17, celebrating the written word of some of the most outstanding creative minds in America. Established in 1950 and overseen since 1989 by the National Book Foundation, the National Book Awards recognize the best writing in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.
Growing up, flipping through family photo albums, and asking questions about each picture was part of my childhood. As I got older, I could retell the stories to visiting relatives and friends as if I were part of each event including details such as what each person said, why they were laughing or crying, even the smell of the food, flowers, or person (as applicable, of course!).
When I was in the 4th grade, our teacher came back from a trip to Europe with an awesome idea — our class was going to have pen pals in England! She had met a teacher from there and they talked about having their classes learn to write letters while making new friends from one another’s country. I was so excited when I got the first letter from my pen pal, Tanya. She actually sent a picture of herself — she had long red hair, freckles, and blue eyes; so different from what I and most of my friends looked like. For the life of me, I can’t remember what was written in the letter just the thrill of receiving one from another young person who lived in a different country! Our class wrote back but unfortunately after the one exchange of letters from each side, we didn’t receive more letters. It was a great idea with the potential for so much more but just seemed to fizzle out. Clearly, something went amiss in my experience. This isn’t the case for many educators who have endeavored to introduce their students to different cultures, experiences, and values while integrating valuable learning skills through letter writing.