Wings of Ebony author J. Elle virtually visits students at Paris Cooperative High School, in Illinois

J. Elle’s visit with students was part of NEA’s Read Across America Sweepstakes

PARIS, ILL.Bestselling New York Times author J. Elle today virtually visited more than 100 students from Paris Cooperative High School, in Illinois, as part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Sweepstakes. Elle, author of Wings of Ebony, read to students and took part in a question-and-answer session with them. The National Education Association (NEA), in coordination with the Illinois Education Association (IEA), delivered 100 copies of Elle’s book to the students for this event.

“Congratulations to the students at Paris Cooperative High School who have been selected to receive a virtual visit from author J. Elle as part of NEA’s Read Across America Sweepstakes,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “J. Elle embodies the spirit of our popular year-round literacy program as we continue to celebrate and create a nation of diverse books, readers, and authors. All students deserve the freedom to read more books—not fewer—that are as diverse and complex as the society in which we live. When we have books that include characters of all races, genders, and backgrounds, students discover their own voices and learn from the stories and voices of others.” 

Kristy Bennet, who teaches eleventh and twelfth grades at the school, entered the Read Across America Sweepstakes on behalf of her students. NEA randomly selected the winner from among the nearly 7,500 submissions. The popular contest ran between January 10, 2022, and January 31, 2022.

“School should be a safe space for students to question life and its many variations, and one of the most important ways that can be achieved is through reading books of all kinds,” said Bennet. “Teachers cannot really prepare students for life after high school if they are not willing to aid students in developing their voices and guiding them in using those voices. A major way students can prepare for the unexpected is through reading, either fictional stories that push what they think is possible or nonfiction that asks them to consider life from someone else’s point of view.”

IEA Secretary-Treasurer Tom Tully noted, “As George R.R. Martin, an American writer, once said, ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies …. The man who never reads lives only one.’ Reading can take us places we have never been, introduce us to ideas we’ve never considered. Reading can create change. We appreciate J. Elle for her writing and also for her advocacy, helping teens lift their voices in their writing and encouraging them to share their perspectives. We are all better for her work. And we are so thankful to Kristy for her outstanding work on behalf of the students at Paris Cooperative High School and for inspiring these awesome students to read! It can change their lives.”

The year-round Read Across America celebration of reading takes place amidst unprecedented, partisan efforts to deny students an accurate and honest education, to censor the lessons taught in classrooms, and to ban books and erase students out of history based on their gender identity, race, or origins. 

About NEA’s Read Across Sweepstakes

The Read Across America Sweepstakes are part of the latest NEA year-round effort to connect students with diverse books and the joys of reading.  Authors available for a virtual visit are: David Bowles, award-winning writer, poet, translator, and author of My Two Border Towns; J. Elle, author of the New York Times  bestseller Wings of Ebony; and Ellen Oh, author of Finding Junie Kim and the highly acclaimed, young adult series The Prophecy Trilogy. 

In August, NEA unveiled its latest list of recommended children’s and young adult books, as well as its popular Read Across America digital calendar. And in November, NEA presented 500 new books to the students at Monaview Elementary School, in Greenview, S.C. Every class at their school received a free set of books from the 2021-2022 Read Across America calendar.

Click on this link to read the official rules of NEA’s Read Across America Sweepstakes.  

For more information on NEA’s Read Across America, visit:

Follow us on twitter @NEAToday and @NEAMedia. #readacrossamerica


At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.

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