Drive to Read Winner Crosses the Finish Line

Contact: Megan Humphrey
312-280-4020
mhumphrey@ala.org

For Immediate Release
November 2001

Drive to Read @ your library winner crosses finish line with gift from her librarian

At The Bess Johnson Elkhorn Public Library in Nebraska, one librarian has gone beyond the call of duty. Library Director Wendy Anderson, who sponsored the winning essay in the national Drive to Read @ your library™ program and won a trip for two to the Homestead-Miami Speedway, turned over her grand prize trip to the program winner, 16-year-old Kylee Nielsen, whose father recently died of cancer. The Drive to Read @ your library program was sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and Morningstar Foods, Inc., makers of Hershey®'s Milk.

Anderson made what she called "a very easy decision" so that Nielsen's two brothers could share in her grand prize trip to Miami to meet Ward Burton, spokesperson for Drive to Read. In response, Morningstar Foods stepped forward with an offer to send Anderson and her son with the Nielsen family to the November 11 race.

The Drive to Read @ your library program was designed to ignite interest in reading among America's teens. Teens were asked to read one of the 2001 Best Books for Young Adults, selected by librarians through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and write a short essay describing why they would recommend the book to a friend and how it's a meaningful or inspiring book for today's teens. Entries were sponsored by a school or public librarian.

Anderson encouraged the teen to enter the essay contest because the family used to attend NASCAR races when her dad was alive. Anderson had become acquainted with Nielsen through a library crafts class and the two developed a friendship. Nielsen uses The Bess Johnson Elkhorn Library because her hometown of Kennard has no library of its own.

"It was such a perfect opportunity in these times to be generous," said Anderson, who is a member of the ALA and the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the ALA. "I'm just so excited for her. It's such a great accomplishment."

The theme of "winning at life" was what Nielsen found inspiring about the book, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins (New York: Putnam, 2000.)

"Armstrong helps you understand it's not winning a bike race, or anything else you may be involved in that is important," wrote Nielsen, who chose the book on her own without any prompting from Anderson or her family. "It is a matter of winning at life."  Read a copy of the winning essay.

A jury of teens and members from YALSA, a division of ALA, selected Nielsen as the winner. Ten runners-up also were chosen by the jury. Information on the  runners up and their sponsoring librarians can be found on the @ your library Web site.  They will each receive an autographed photo of Ward Burton and Hershey merchandise. Essays were judged on both style and content, including their thoughtfulness, creativity, clarity and organization. The Drive to Read jury found Nielsen's essay compelling and well-written.

"We find our heroes in different ways, and Kylee found one in this book. It was apparent that his story really validated the fight that her father had gone through," said Cindy Welch, Young Adult Specialist at the Chicago Public Library and a member of the jury.

The program, which kicked off at an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August, received an overwhelming response from libraries nationwide. Nearly 1,000 public and school librarians across the county requested free Drive to Read @ your library kits through the program Web site. The kits included posters, bookmarks and other materials to help libraries publicize the program locally.

The Bess Johnson Elkhorn Public Library is located outside of Omaha and, with a population of 7,000 — up from 1,400 in the 1970s — represents the fastest-growing community in the state of Nebraska. When Anderson started there part-time 16 years ago, the library was in a

basement. Five years ago, the library got a new 8,200-square-foot building, and since that time circulation has tripled. The library now sponsors a number of programs for kids and felt that the Drive to Read program would complement their outreach efforts.

"Any program that is designed to encourage teens in America to discover the world through reading is a program that I am delighted to participate in," said Anderson, who, like Armstrong, became a hero to this teen.

Drive to Read @ your library is the latest program of The Campaign for America's Libraries, a five-year public education effort sponsored by the ALA to remind the public about the value of libraries and librarians in the 21st century.

For more information on the campaign and to subscribe to an email list for the latest campaign updates and idea-sharing, visit the @ your library Web site at http://www.ala.org/@yourlibrary. Libraries are encouraged to send examples of how they are involved in the campaign to: Megan Humphrey, Campaign Coordinator, ALA Public Information Office, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611. Questions about the campaign can be directed to atyourlibrary@ala.org.

November 2001