Woman holding books

Program

Letters About Literature

A national reading-writing contest for grades 4 - 12.

Contact

Leah Kuehn
Program Assistant
(207) 773-5051

Details

Letters About Literature

Has a book impacted you?

 

Has a book changed how you think about the world or yourself? Write about it!

Letters About Literature is an annual, national reading and writing program organized by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To enter, students in grades 4-12 write a letter to the author (living or dead) of their favorite book, poem, or short story and describe how that book moved or changed them.

Winning letters tend to be personal, self-reflective, and deep-thinking, relating ideas, characters, and lessons learned to how the reader views or navigates through the world. Do you look up to a character for something that they’ve done? What about what that character has gone through—have you seen that in your own life? What parts of your book, story, or poem do you see in your life here in Maine? Has that made an impact on how you think or act?

Each state chooses a winner in each level, and the Library of Congress chooses a national winner from the state winners in each level. State winners receive a cash prize of $100. National winners receive a prize of $1,000. Click here for more entry guidelines and information about the program.

Contest Deadlines

Level Three (grades 9-12): Friday, December 2, 2016

Level Two (grades 7 & 8): Monday, January 9, 2017

Level One (grades 4-6): Monday, January 9, 2017

If you would like information about the 2017 contest (including deadlines and updated teacher and curriculum materials), feel free to subscribe to the following mailing list for information: Letters About Literature 2017 mailing list


  • My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was beginning third grade. By the time I was in fourth grade, things were going down-hill quickly. Inkheart was one bond that we shared. When she would start reading it to me, the bleak world would fade away and be replaced by the lively performance of the Motley Folk moving from Lombrica to Argenta, or the comforting sounds of bookbinding tools in Mo's workshop....Ms. Funke, hearing your voice in Inkheart helped me find my own. I now know that I will always write. I hope to write scripts, and poetry, and inspiring stories, and sad stories, and comical stories, and maybe even books. Books like yours. Books about magic, miracles, hope, love, and strength.

    -- Student participant, Rebecca Cox, Camden Middle School.

  • I read your poem one morning at school, but it wasn’t until I went into the cafeteria for lunch that I experienced the alarming side effects. I was stunned to see a wall winding throughout the whole cafeteria, a beautiful New England stonewall, just like in your poem. I could see in some places the wall had been carefully taken care of, and in other places stones had fallen haphazardly on either side and left the wall with gaps. The wall wound around the popular kids table and encircled the geeks; it ran past the football players who were animatedly discussing the latest game. As I stood in the doorway, I watched a group of girls point at a boy on the other side of the wall. They giggled and whispered as they haughtily added jagged, sharp rocks to their tall and imposing section. I wondered at the irony of the neighbor’s comment in your poem when he said, “Good fence[s] make good neighbors.” I was pretty sure I was looking at a boy who would not agree. I saw that the wall prevented us from getting to know out own classmates.

    -National Honor Winner, Level 2: Caroline George, ME

  • One day I saw one of your books in my school's library. "Meet Kaya" it read. The cover of the book was what caught my eye. Kaya, the Indian girl was standing there with her gorgeous black stallion. She was an Indian girl? I just had to pick it up. Kaya's adventures captivated me. I felt like it was me who was flying through the air on a black stallion. I was the girl who took care of my dear and very best friend. I was living in an animal hide Tee Pee in a beautiful field. When I finished the first book, I quickly went out and bought the entire series. I read them every night, like a ritual. They opened my eyes to the beauty of being a Native American. When I realized that, I began to stand up for myself. I stopped putting up with the bullying that I was receiving and defended myself. I tried extremely hard to make friends and forced myself to be less shy. Before I knew it, my life had been transformed.

    -Dana Vigue, winning student

  • Charlie was depressed, just like me. I related to him. Reading the book, I felt like I finally had someone who understood me. It was almost as if he was real and he was my good friend. Sort of like what you said, "It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book." Charlie, Sam and Patrick were the friends I didn't have.

    -Rosemary Wood, Gorham High School

  • This year a lot of my students avoid reading and writing, so it has been difficult to motivate them. This contest was one way that helped to spark them, and I have seen more effort in this task than I have seen in any other so far this year. They have truly enjoyed this writing activity and I have been very impressed with the results.

    -- Teacher, Leeds Central School

  • I have a cousin who is deaf and has autism. He is fourteen and I have always thought he was “weird,” because he was different then me. When I look back on that I realize that I was being mean by putting a label on him. He also has hearing aids and has a guide dog and you had the phonic ear and hearing aids so you and him are so similar. When I went to see him, I kept my distance because he scared me because he talks funny and received special attention. That has changed now because I read El Deafo and I know that is not his fault that he is deaf and has autism. It is no one’s fault and that you should not put labels on people just because they don’t act the same way as everyone else or need special attention sometimes. So now next time i see him. I will treat him like everyone else, because he is human too.

    -Elizabeth Brune, Center for Teaching and Learning

  • It’s only been a month or so since I finished your book on Steve Jobs. I still think about it a few times a week. You changed my life in a way I didn’t anticipate. I’m conflicted about the price of success. At 13 years old, I haven’t read a lot of biographies that detail the personal lives of super successful people. I understand that an underlying theme for the super successful is being fully dedicated to the goal at hand. Steve Job’s behavior reminds me of the old saying that “nothing succeeds like excess”. Is excess a requirement for extreme success? Your story leaves me wondering if this is the case – and struggling with the balance between still wanting to do something great while still being someone great. Consequently, your story created more questions in my life than it answered.

    -Gabriel Ferris, Level 2 National Winner, Waterville Junior High School

  • What a great opportunity your contest was for my students. We had fantastic discussions about books and authors. The materials on-line helped immensely with the structuring and developing of their letters. Peer sharing of their thoughts was very valuable. Even though the entire process took quite a few periods, I think the overall results were well worth the time spent. Thank you.

    --Teacher, Camden-Rockport Middle School

Offered by:

Dollar General Literacy Foundation Logo

 

 

The 23rd annual writing contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries and other organizations.

Support for the program in Maine is generously provided by the David Royte Fund.