Many students are influenced or inspired by a book they’ve read. An annual contest sponsored by the Washington State Library encourages students to put their thoughts about a book into words.
Now in its eighth year, the Letters About Literature competition encourages young readers to write letters to their favorite authors, living or dead. The contest is for schoolchildren in grades 4-10 and those who are homeschooled. Due to budgetary constraints at the federal level, 11th- and 12th-graders are not included in this year’s contest.
Students can enter the contest by writing a personal letter to an author, explaining how his or her work shaped the student’s perspective on the world or themselves. Students can write about works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. They cannot write about music lyrics. Entries in Spanish will be accepted and translated for the Washington State judges.
Entries for this year’s contest must be postmarked by Jan. 11. The state winners will be announced in March.
Nearly 3,400 Washington students went through the judging process in the last competition.
The contest’s co-sponsors are the Office of Secretary of State, the Center for the Book and the Library of Congress. The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.
“I really admire Letters About Literature because it lets students share their thoughts about an important book they’ve read,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “One of my favorite parts of this contest is to hear the winning students read their letter aloud. Their letters are powerful and moving. The contest shows that the power of books is alive and well.”
Acting State Librarian Rand Simmons says Letters About Literature is an annual highlight for the State Library staff.
“We receive many excellent, thoughtful letters from students and we look forward to seeing even more this year,” Simmons said. “I encourage all students throughout Washington to take part by writing a letter. It doesn’t matter what kind of book you’ve read. If it’s one that you really enjoyed or made you think, all you have to do is write about why you liked it.”
Letter writers compete at three levels: Level I for grades 4-6; Level II for grades 7-8; and Level III for grades 9-10. Entrants must be at least 9 years old. One letter from each level from each state is entered into the national competition.
Each letter must be accompanied by an entry coupon that can be found at the State Library’s Letters About Literature website. Coupons should be stapled to the last page of the letter. Entries should be mailed to:
Letters About Literature
Competition Level (Indicate Level 1, 2 or 3)
P.O. Box 5308
Woodbridge, VA 22194
Teachers, librarians and parents can download contest materials, including lesson plans, assessment checklists and writing samples, by visiting the national Letters About Literature website. Program updates will be published on the website throughout the school year.
State judges select the top letter writers in Washington, who then advance to the national competition. State prizes include a $125 cash award and a certificate.
On the national level, the winner of each contest level will receive a $1,000 cash award, and second-place finishers will receive a $150 cash award. In the past seven years, Washington has had two national winners and a national honorable mention winner.