Massachusetts Center for the Book welcomed more than 200 guests to the Great Hall at the State House to recognize student awardees in the Massachusetts Letters About Literature program.

This reading and writing contest is sponsored nationwide by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Through their school or local public library, students were encouraged to write a letter to a favored author, sharing the personal impact of a book.

Shirley resident Madelyn Mitrano, a senior at Ayer Shirley Regional High School, was among the top 1 to 2 percent of Massachusetts letter-writers celebrated at the ceremony. She was commended for her Honors letter to author Kurt Vonnegut about “Slaughterhouse-Five,” a book that put all of her worries into perspective.

“Putting these reflections on paper provides an opportunity for young readers to assess their stake in reading and the importance of books in their lives,” said Sharon Shaloo, executive director of Mass Center for the Book. “It helps to lay the foundation for life-long literacy habits.”

Author Moying Li addressed the group as the featured Massachusetts author. She underscored a key theme from her memoir “Snow Falling in Spring,” a 2009 Mass Book Award winner, which speaks about the importance of books in her family during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Boasting a third-in-nation participation level in Letters About Literature, the Massachusetts program received nearly 3,000 letters. Forty-five students from across the Commonwealth, grades 4 through 12, were selected by a literary panel to be honored for their letters, written to such authors as Elie Wiesel, Sylvia Plath and Philip Pullman.

Top honorees in each of three grade levels will move on to represent Massachusetts at the national level.

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