The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, in cooperation with affiliate state centers for the book, invites readers in grades 4 through 10 to enter Letters About Literature (LAL), a national reading-writing contest.
To enter, readers write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre – fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, contemporary or classic – explaining how that author’s work changed the student’s way of thinking about the world or themselves.
There are three competition levels:
- Level I for children in grades 4 through 6
- Level II for grades 7 and 8
- Level III, grades 9 through 10
State winners, announced in April each year, receive a cash award and advance to the national level judging. A panel of national judges for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress will select one national winner per competition level to receive a $1,000 cash award. The judges will also select one second place winner on each competition level to receive a $150 cash award.
LAL focuses on reader response and reflective writing. We provide free teaching material including lesson plans, writing samples, assessment checklists, and teacher tips--all downloadable through this site.
There were 1,265 submissions from Minnesota students for this year’s Letters About Literature contest, and 119 made it on to the second round of state judging.
Level 1 Winners:
1 – Sadie Oster, Individual Entry
Letter to Watty Piper, The Little Engine That CouldWatty Piper -
I should probably introduce myself. I'm Sadie Oster, and I love to read! My dad once told me that I have read more books in my lifetime than he has in his, and he's 42! As much as I would like to credit my love of reading to my superior brain (just kidding!), you're book, "The Little Engine That Could" has to take the prize! I am deaf in both ears, so noises don't mean as much to me, but words! Well, they're like music to my ears (no pun intended)! When I'm reading a book, there's no need for me to pretend to understand a conversation when I know exactly what everyone is saying! I don't need to constantly ask, "What?" when I can see the answer right in front of my eyes!
2 – Autumn Trujillo, Delano Middle School
Letter to Stephanie Tolan, Listen!
3 – Rosalie Kurtz, Capitol Hill School
Letter to Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water
Level 2 Winners:
1 – Sophia Kurowski, The Blake School
Letter to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451Dear Mr. Bradbury,
For 13 years now I have sat by and watched as the world has grown more and more dependent on technology. I will admit that I too have fallen victim to the enticement of technology and all it has to offer. But there's always been a part inside of me that yearned to pick up a book every once and awhile. A real book, with real paper pages that I can flip through from front cover, to back. You have reflected to me my own views and perspectives between the text of Fahrenheit 451. Will we ever reach a point where we can never sit down to enjoy a conversation with family? Or will our families be replaced by moving faces on a television screen?
As I began to read your book on that dark, dreary summer day, I was moved from the start...
2 – Elizabeth Sheldon, The Blake School
Letter to Carolyn Keene, "Nancy Drew" series
3 – Jessie Wang, Minnetonka Middle School West
Letter to Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Level 3 Winners:
1 – Amy Sawyer, Shakopee East Junior High
Letter to Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Dear Stephen Chbosky, Dear friend,
I think that it would be best if before you know why it is that a random teenager is writing to you about why your book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is one of her most prized and adored possessions, you know who she is. My name is Amy Sawyer. I am 14, quirky, a daydreamer, and I believe that the power of words is unparalleled; perhaps odd traits to put for one's self but nonetheless completely truthful ones. Books are treasures to me and I'm sure that I have read hundreds by now, all of which I could tell you the plot of. But far too often these stories do not stop me in my tracks and make me assess my life or change me in any way, shape, or form; yours did.
Before your book I was Charlie, in a sense. I was a bit awkward and reticent. I would have much rather watched the world go round as if I were watching a movie, instead of hopping on the rollercoaster of life and living the adventure. Now that you know me, let's begin with how I happened upon your book.
2 – Tristan Ott, Caledonia High School
Letter to Karl Marx, Essential Writings of Karl Marx
3 (tie) – Jake Hill, Shakopee East Junior High
Letter to J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter" series; AND
– Minh-Uyen Nguyen, Robbinsdale Cooper High School
Letter to James Patterson, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
2012 Winning Letters
Level 1 State Winners
First Place: Grace Hoaglund, Montrose
Dear Jerry Spinelli,
I have always been against bullying, but I never thought it could be as bad as in Maniac Magee. For example, not talking to a person that has different color skin than mine.
As I was reading your book, I thought of bullying and being different from others in my own life. In my school kids are separated into groups like boys and girls or fifth grade and sixth grade, but kids are not separated based on skin color. At my school we include other people regardless of their skin color or other differences; like people with disabilities. Read full letter >>
Second Place: Claire Bruhn, Delano
Letter to Ally Condie, author of Matched
Third Place: Chase Dickson, Minneapolis
Letter to W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog’s Purpose
Level 2 State Winners
First Place: Will Kaback, St. Louis Park
Dear Ms. Cornelia Funke,
I have always wondered if an author can experience their own writing. Can you, the writer, read your work and feel the tension and suspense? Engross yourself in a different world? Jump at cliffhangers? I find this question pestering me today, long after I first read Inkheart.
Inkheart shaped my childhood and continues to inhabit my thoughts to this day. I first read your book snuggled up with my mom at my grandparents' cabin in Maine. It was the summer of 2004 and I was 7. At the time, as I gazed at the red cover, marveling at the rich illustrations, I didn't know that I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life. I began to read. Read full letter >>
Second Place: Megan Lysford, Frazee
Letter to Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games
Third Place: Ryan Broll, Maple Plain
Letter to George Orwell, author of 1984
Level 3 State Winners
First Place and National Winner: Alexandra McLaughlin, Minneapolis
Dear Tim O'Brien,
A $12 digital watch from Target. A bottle of Ibuprofen. A heart-shaped gold ring my Mom wore when she was a teenager. Vanilla-scented hand lotion. The memory of my mom lying lifeless and still on a hospital bed, her cold hands no longer squeezing back. A shoebox containing a lifetime of letters, some creased, worn, and stained with tears. My sister's sleepy but comforting voice through the phone at 2 AM, when I lie awake, haunted by the past and crippled by fears. I know. It will be okay. I love you.
These are the things I carry.
Two years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, my Mom had a sudden heart attack while running. She collapsed on the side of the road and died instantly. My English class read The Things They Carried a few months later. What I expected was just another book about war. What I found was a message that spoke directly to my soul. Your book came when I felt my suburban town was the quintessential land of lollipops and ignorance, when I feared real pain and heartache were foreign to everyone but me. It came when I needed it the most. Read full letter >>
Second Place: Sophia Deady, Minneapolis
Letter to Joan Larkin, editor of A Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories
Third Place: Marisa Lin, Rochester
Letter to Elie Wiesel, author of Night
2011 National Honor Winners,
Level 1: Nicholas Behrens, MN;
Level 2: Solomon Polansky, MN;
Level 3: Akash Kar, CA
Please note: A young reader may enter either:
(a) through a classroom teacher/school or library or
(b) as an individual, on his or her own.
Read the Entry Form carefully to make sure you are entering in the correct category.
Download the official 2013 guidelines and entry form here. Teachers and librarians, please note that every letter must have an entry coupon. Please duplicate the entry coupons and have students staple those coupons to the back of their letters. Individuals, please note that you must also include your name and address on your letter in addition to completing and stapling your entry coupon to your letter.
For more information on entering the contest and official guidelines, visit the Letters About Literature website.
For Young Readers
- Letters About Literature (LAL) National Winners
- Frequently Asked Questions and Contest Timeline
- Read.gov for Kids
- Letter Writing Basics