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Students Get a Chance to Thank a Favorite Author

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013   

SALEM, Ore. – Children in Oregon have a chance this month to tell the world about a book they really love.

"Letters About Literature" is a national reading and writing contest sponsored by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.

Students from fourth through 12th grades are eligible, and all they have to do is write a personal letter to the author of any book explaining why it has changed the way they think about the world or about themselves.

Jennifer Maurer, school library consultant at the Oregon State Library, explains where the entries end up.

"In Oregon last year, we had 810,” she says. “And all entries get sent to the Library of Congress, where they have a screening process, and last year, 116 of the 810 letters made it through to be judged at the Oregon level."

One winner is eventually selected in each age range for each state, which means three from Oregon will compete nationally.

For students in ninth through 12th grades, the deadline is fast approaching – it's Dec. 10. Younger children have until Jan. 10 to write their Letters About Literature.

The author can be from any time in history, and Maurer says the book doesn't have to be one of the classics. In fact, she says a recent finalist from Oregon is a good example.

"One wrote about a book – some football player wrote a book about playing football and it was aimed at upper elementary students,” she explains. “Here's a book that didn't win any awards, kind of a standard, nonfiction sports series – and yet this student had a total connection with it."

Some English and reading teachers around the state make this contest part of their lesson plans. Maurer has some advice for students who aren't sure which book to select for their letter.

"Think about it from the book end and not the writing end,” she says. “You know, a book that you connected with, that you can't stop thinking about – that's with you several days, several weeks, after you've finished it. And if that's the case, then that is a book that you want to write about for Letters About Literature."

Maurer adds she often wishes the Library of Congress had the resources to mail the letters to authors who are still living.

The contest rules are on the Library of Congress website – read.gov/letters.





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