Goal is to encourage children to build writing skills and think about importance of books


By Staff Report

Good readers grow into good writers.

BookSmart has sponsored the Gift of Reading program during the holidays for more than 20 years. Through the store’s BookSmart Community Advantage nonprofit, underserved children in Morgan Hill receive new and like-new books to start the new year with a reading adventure.

Last year, the program’s organizers decided to add an essay contest with the theme “Why Reading is Important to Me.” The goal was to encourage children to build their writing skills and think about the importance of books to them personally.

“We thought it would be good for the students to do some writing and also raise the profile of the Gift of Reading program to raise awareness of the program as we go into the holiday season,” said BookSmart co-owner Brad Jones. “Maybe one of the essay writers will one day grow up to write books for children and we can give their books to students in schools in a few years.”

About 100 student contestants from Morgan Hill schools participated in the essay contest. Jones expects the number of young writers to grow significantly when the competition is done during the 2020 holiday season because teachers will work the contest into their curriculum to encourage a love of reading and writing.

First-place winners received $50 gift certificates and second-place winners received $25 gift certificates.

A panel of “literary specialists,” — people interested in promoting literacy — selected the final winners. They were made up of Robin Shepherd, Jan Sanders, Jordon Rosenfeld, Danielle DeRome, Katherine Hardie, and Marty Cheek. Besides BookSmart Community Advantage, the AAUW-Morgan Hill branch and the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library participated in the contest.

“We feel strongly that every child has to have a book of their own to help them foster their love of reading and learning,” said Cinda Meister, co-owner of BookSmart. Reading and writing encourages young people to use their intellect and imagination to develop their minds, she said.

2nd/3rd-grade winners: Chase Haugen (first place) and Emily Edesten (second place)

4th/5th-grade winners: Elizabeth Jo Stevenson (first place) and Colby Haugen (second place)

6th-8th-grade winners: Kyle Strenfel (first place) and Nevaeh Gonzalez (second place)

High school winners: Megan Jones (first place) and Agnes William (second place)

Gift of Reading Program

First-Place Winners’ Essays:

Chase Haugen — 2nd grade — Home schooled

Chase Haugen

Reading is good for you. Reading is proven to improve your mind. I’m going to tell you why reading is important for you. Reading is good for your developing mind. When I read, I learn new words.

For example, when I read the book The Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis, I learned what the meaning of terrorism was. Terrorism is sad but it is good for me to know about. New words help to improve my vocabulary. This helps me to better understand what I am reading it give me ideas in my writing.

Did you know that reading positive books helps you become a better person? Books that have positive messages are good examples for me. They inspire me to do the right thing. When I read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, I learned the importance of being kind to all people, nature and animals. My favorite type of books are adventure books. I like adventure books because they interest me. Reading books is important to me, because I learn new words, facts and it inspires me to read more books.

Elisabeth Jo Stevenson — 4th grade

Elisabeth Jo Stevenson

I can’t live without books because books help me to do tests like math and science.

For example, in class I have to be able to read the question to answer the problem correctly. I also like to read because it is interesting and inspiring. You can learn about all types of things. Like when you read biology, you can learn about snakes, what they eat and how they live.

You can also read books that are fantasy. You can read about things that are not real like unicorns, fairies, and talking animals.

My favorite type of book is probably poetry. I really like poetry because mostly everything in the book will rhyme. Also, I like poetry because it’s beautiful.

I like to read to get away from things. Sometimes I need some alone time. Mostly from my brother who can sometimes annoy me by invading my space. Reading makes me feel like I’m in my own world. It makes me feel calm. For example, if I’m mad at my mom because she refuses to give me dessert or for some silly reason, I go upstairs to my room to read or to calm down. Reading makes me feel like I don’t have to worry about anything anymore.

Also, when you know how to read, you can impress people that you know by how much you know about books.

Reading also helps with spelling. Every time I look at a new word, I can memorize how it might be spelled. Then when I have to type or write I will most likely remember the word. It might work for you, too. When I start a new book, I get so sucked into the book that I might be reading for hours and have no idea — it’s crazy! And this is why I can’t live without books.

Kyle Strenfel – 7th grade Charter School of Morgan Hill

Kyle Strenfel

I love to read books because of the content, whether it be magical, creative, imaginative, or factual. A book can be short or long, but whatever the length, its content will take me away to the exact place I want to be: fighting against villains, becoming the hero, suffering loss, understanding a concept. Reading simply cures my curiosity, my quest for knowledge and understanding.

I love words. I love to learn new words. Words make the world easier to describe. This has been very important to me throughout my life.

By reading books, I may learn new words used to better describe this living world. And even words I already know, books only strength my comprehension. Books have also taught me great writing skills to put to use in class and other things such as this essay.

Many may not like books because it is challenging to read. Maybe the dislike is due to a reading disability, lack of time, or it is “just not their thing.” Books in these types of situations are even more important. The more exposure and time dedicated to understanding literature, the less they dislike will affect them! And moreover, they may find out they love to read, adding another individual to the “book club”!

I have always liked to read and always will. But finding time to read is becoming a bit of a challenge these days with all my homework and extracurricular activities. I may go many days without a single fictional word to be read but, as I like to say, every minute counts!

Megan Jones – 10th grade Sobrato High School

Megan Jones

“There is more treasure in books than all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island,” the wise words of a magical man. The wonders within the pages of a book are the result of brilliant minds like his. When you read a book, you are looking into someone’s imagination. You are seeing and feeling what they want you to see, but in a way that makes sense to you. A book takes what you know and expands your view of the world.

A good book will take you somewhere and a part of you will always be with it. You can travel anywhere in the world if you just open the pages of a book. When I read Harry Potter for the first time, I was discouraged whenever I closed its pages and felt the reality that magic doesn’t exist. But I had to realize that the only things that can come close are the pictures that your mind creates when you read.

In a world without books, we would be confined to the boundaries of our minds with no imaginative collaboration and no magic in our heads. Without reading the world would just be made of blank pages waiting to be filled with the minds of its citizens.

Books are the product of imagination and the fuel for the imaginations of generations to come. To me, a book isn’t just a form of entertainment, but a portal to amazing minds and faraway places and times.

Robert Airoldi