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.

2019 state-wide winners:

Out of hundreds of entries received from across Virginia, the selected state-wide winners are:

  • Level I (grades 4-6): David de Costa (Alexandria, VA)—Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern
  • Level II (grades 7-8): Lucy Rowe (Richmond, VA)—Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Level III (grades 9-12): Stephanie Annis (Woodbridge, VA)—Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

During the 25th anniversary Virginia Festival of the Book in March, we honored winners and honorable mentions in the 2019 Letters About Literature competition. The Letters About Literature Celebration featured student readings and awards, as well as honorary guest speakers Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson, the author-illustrator creators of The Real McCoys; Everywhere, Wonder; and other books for young readers.

To view the full announcement of 2019 honorees, including honorable mentions, click here.

About the competition:

Submissions for the 2020 Letters About Literature contest will open in Fall 2019. 

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:

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.