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 students with a creative way to engage with books and teachers a method for enhancing classroom curriculum.

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

Submissions for the 2019 Letters About Literature competition are now closed. 

CLICK HERE to download the Official Rules for the 2019 competition. 

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.

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 each receive a check for $100 and 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?

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.

Past winners:

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.

For 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.