Letters About Literature

The annual Letters About Literature competition encourages students in grades 4-12 to read a book, poem, or speech and write to that author (living or dead) about how the book affected them. The contest provides a creative way for students to engage with books while also providing teachers a method for incorporating the contest into classroom curriculum.

Letters About Literature is sponsored nationally by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and is organized in Virginia by the Virginia Center for the Book.

Out of 1,493 entries received from across Virginia, the 2018 Letters About Literature state-wide honors were awarded by grade levels to:

  • Level I (grades 4-6): Nathan Saunders (Richmond)—Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
  • Level II (grades 7-8): Avery Crumlish (Richmond)—Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Level III (grades 9-12): Tiffany Ha (Woodbridge)—The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

During the March 25th Letters About Literature Celebration in the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, guest speaker David Barclay Moore, author of The Stars Beneath Our Feet, and Virginia Center for the Book assistant director Sarah Lawson honored winners in Charlottesville at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. Students selected as winners and honorable mentions were all invited to read their letters aloud.

To view the full announcement of 2018 honorees, including honorable mentions, click here.

We will begin accepting submissions for the 2019 Letters About Literature competition in Fall 2018. Please check back then for more details. 

Teacher’s Guide (pdf) with tips for connecting Letters About Literature to curriculum

Helpful tips on reflective writing, for teachers (pdf)


Who is eligible?

Any student throughout Virginia in grades 4-12 enrolled in public or private schools or home schooled. Students may enter independently or through a school or library.

Guidelines and application forms will be updated here each year, upon availability.

How many winners will there be?

At the state level, independent judges select three state winners, one each at Level I (grades 4-6); Level II (grades 7-8); and Level III (grades 9-12). We also award Honorable Mentions.

What do the winners receive?

The three state winners in Virginia will receive $100 cash, a book donated in their honor to their school or local library, and will advance to national judging. In addition, each winner is invited to be a guest speaker at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville in March.

How are the letters judged?

In Virginia, independent judges review letters submitted by Virginia students, with student information removed. Winning letters and honorable mention letters are announced here in March.

At the national level, a Center for the Book in the Library of Congress panel review the top letters from all participating states, with announcements usually in May at the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress website.

Note to Teachers and Parents

Letters About Literature supports national standards for teaching language arts and reading as recommended by the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.