Letters About Literature

Center for the Book in the Library of Congress logo23rd Annual Writing Contest
2015-16 Guidelines

Read. Be Inspired. Write Back.

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.


How did an author’s work change your view of the world or yourself?


Entries will be accepted beginning November 2, 2015. Entries must be postmarked by the following dates:

Level 3 (Grades 9-12) - December 4, 2015
Level 2 (Grades 7-8) - January 11, 2016
Level 1
(Grades 4-6) - January 11, 2016

How to Enter

  1. READ
    Select a fiction or nonfiction book, a poem or play you have read and about which you have strong feelings. (Sorry, no song lyrics!) It might be a book that helped you through a difficult time or it might be a book that simply touched your heart or inspired you.
    Think before you write. How did this author’s work change you or your view of the world? How do you know it did? How and why are you different now than you were before you read this work?
    Write a personal letter to the author, stating how reading his or her work changed you. Be personal, but also persuasive! Support your ideas with specific details, including details from the work itself. This is not a fan letter, but rather a reflection on how an author influenced you.
  4. WRITE
    Type your entry in letter format - do not send handwritten letters. Your name and complete return address (either school or home) must appear in the upper right corner of the first page of the letter.
  5. SEND
    Mail your letter with the required entry coupon by the deadline date.


Each state recognizes and awards prizes to winning participants. The Library of Congress will announce all National and National Honor Winners and awards and will list all state-level winners on its website. 
National Winners in each competition level will receive a $1,000 cash award.

National Honor Winners in each competition level will receive a $200 cash award.

Check read.gov/letters for details on state awards and ceremonies.

Need some tips to get started? Not sure how to write a personal letter?
Visit read.gov/letters to read winning letters from past competitions and to access the Letters About Literature Teaching Guide.

Rules and Guidelines | Teaching Guide


All entries will be judged on the following criteria:

Audience. Is the essay in letter format and does it address the work of the author? Entries that are not in letter format and are written about the author, rather than to the author will be eliminated.
Purpose. Does the essay address the contest theme of how an author's work changed the reader's view of self or the world? Is personal reflection evident in the letter? Entries that are book summaries or fan letters will be eliminated.

Letters that meet these criteria advance to Round 2.
Grammatical Conventions. Is the essay written in a clear and organized way with specific details to support the essay's main ideas? Single paragraph letters with significant grammatical errors will be eliminated.
Originality. Does the essay express ideas creatively, communicating a unique or powerful point of view? Letters that are formulaic without evidence of a writer's voice will be eliminated.

Letters that meet these criteria advance to state level judging.

Judges selected by affiliate Centers for the Book choose the top letters in each competition level for their state and coordinate recognition ceremonies and awards. The first-place state-level winners advance to the national level judging.

How to Submit Your Letters and Entry Coupon

Entry Coupon. Each letter must be accompanied by an entry coupon. Staple the coupon to the last page of the letter. Affiliate Centers for the Book will contact State Winners using this information, so be sure entry coupons are complete and legible! Letters without a coupon will be eliminated.
Class Set of Letters. Teachers must submit their name and contact information with a list of the names of each student submitting a letter. This list does not take the place of entry coupons. Each student's letter must have it's own entry coupon. Mail class sets in a flat envelope - 8" x 10" or larger.
Ownership. All letters become the property of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Please keep a copy of your entries, as no letters will be returned.
Mailing Address. Indicate the competition level -- 1, 2 or 3 -- on the envelope. Include a complete return address on your mailing envelope.

>> Letters About Literature Entry Coupon for 2015-2016 << 
Please complete the form, cut, and staple to your letter!

Mail To:

Letters About Literature Competition Level
(Indicate level 1, 2 or 3 on the envelope)
c/o C. Gourley, Project Manager
81 Oliver Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18705

For more information contact the Florida Project Manager, Tara Zimmermann at or tzimmerm@broward.org or visit www.read.gov/letters.​​​