The contest was open to K-12 students in Morgan Hill schools

Nordstrom School third-grade student Udit Reddy, a winner of the BookSmart essay contest, poses with his parents and younger brother after learning he won the contest. Photo by Marty Cheek

By Staff Report

The annual Gift of Reading program, run by BookSmart Community Advantage, ensures Morgan Hill students have books to unwrap every holiday season.

The 2023 book drive kicked off with the annual essay contest, challenging students to write what they are thankful for.

The contest was open to K-12 students in Morgan Hill schools, with winners selected across six grade brackets.

Last year’s essay topic was “What are you grateful or thankful for in your lives, and why?”

BookSmart’s co-owner Cinda Meister said the essay contest inspires kids’ interest in reading and writing while also raising awareness for the Gift of Reading program. This year’s theme asked students to focus on optimistic thoughts amid difficult world events.

The first place winners are Udit Reddy, third grade, Nordstrom Elementary School; Kayle Santangelo, fifth grade, home school; Katherine Frederick, sixth grade, Britton Middle School; Ava Suares, Live Oak High School; Emma Jeffrey, Live Oak High School; and Ishq Kandhra, 10th grade, Sobrato High School.

Reddy and Santangelo’s essays will be published in this issue of Morgan Hill Life. The other winners will be published in an upcoming issue.

Reddy, 8, received a happy surprise when Meister, Emily Shem-Tov (the contest coordinator) and Morgan Hill Life publisher Marty Cheek (a contest judge) visited his class to present him with his prize in front of his classmates.

“I always liked writing even when I was little. When I was three I used to write tiny stories,” he said, describing his love for crafting fiction. “I liked fantasy when I was little.”

He chose the topic of his gratitude for his parents and younger brother for his essay. He felt “happy, overjoyed and excited” when Meister announced his name as the essay winner of his grade level.


What are U Thankful For?

By Udit Reddy

Grade 3, Nordstrom Elementary School

I was asked, “What are U thankful for?” I thought and thought, even in SCHOOL! I didn’t realize I could be thankful for anything I liked! Once I realized that I could be thankful for anything I liked (which took a LOT of time), I started thinking about something that almost everybody likes. After a LOT of thinking (and banging my head against the wall 11 times), I finally got the answer. (Drumroll.) FAMILY!

Here are some reasons why I’m most thankful for my family.

Reason 1. Firstly, it may not occur to you, but our family helps us more than U think! They feed us, give us baths, give us food and water, and etc. Still not convinced? If not, flip the page. I guarantee U at the end of this essay, U will be convinced.

Reason 2. Secondly, without parents, we won’t have education. Without education U can’t graduate. If U can’t graduate, U can’t get a job. If U can’t get a job, U can’t earn money. If you can’t earn money, you’ll be a beggar. If you’re a beggar than . . . can we stop already? It’s already too long! STILL disagree? Then the last reason should make you agree.

Reason 3. Lastly (and most importantly), they gave us birth. Without them, we wouldn’t be born. Now U should agree.

And if U ask me about the other things I’m thankful for, I would say, “Friends!” Some people may agree with me, but others may not. I’m going to list 10 things I’m thankful for below (not in order):

Family. Friends. Books. Education. Technology. Nature. Water. Food. Relatives. Science.

C-ya Later!



By Kaylee Santangelo

5th grade, Homeschool

Kaylee Santangelo

My mom got pregnant 10 years ago with IVF. She was all right until she started to feel pain! Her uterus got so large it was twisting! She started shaking so she went to the hospital with my dad. The ER doctors took a special picture called an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, the doctors said, “I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat. And the baby is in the fallopian tube. You could get really hurt! We need to remove the baby.”

“No! Check again!” yelled my parents.

So they double checked with the radiologist. But the radiologist said the same thing as the ER doctors. The doctors announced, “We should go to the surgery room to get you ready for removing the baby.”

My mom stated, “I want my IVF doctor to check.”

My mom and dad wanted to stick together, but they would not allow my dad to come. So my mom went to the surgery room and the doctors got her set up for surgery. The IVF doctor double checked. Suddenly, the IVF doctor told my mom the pregnancy was great and the baby was in a great spot. The doctor called the radiologist and the ER doctors and told them they were VERY wrong! That is why I am thankful for my mom and dad who said no, the IVF doctor who said I was great, and God for watching over me. Because without those angels, I would not be alive today.

The End.