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Letters About Literature

We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting entries for Letters About Literature the 22nd Annual Writing Contest for Young Readers. 

Download the entry guidelines here. Entry deadline: January 15, 2015

What is Letters About Literature?

Pictured left to right are 2014 honorable mention winners
from Germantown High School: Ally Coyle, Analia Mireles,
Jessica Doan, Katherine Molinet, Max Kight, Jessica Jackson,
Susannah Garcia, and Arniecia Hinds. 

Books have wings. You can't see them, but they're there. On books' wings, readers can soar to new places where they meet intriguing characters and experience exciting adventures. A book's wings can help readers rise above difficult situations so that they see the world — or perhaps themselves — with new understanding. 

Letters About Literature (LAL) is a writing contest that encourages students in grades 4–12 to write a personal letter to the author (living or dead) of a fiction or nonfiction book, a short story, poem, essay or speech (sorry, no song lyrics) they have read and about which they have strong feelings. The letter should explore those feelings and why you reacted the way you did during or after reading. It's a great way to get young people to think critically about something they're reading right now or something they've already read.

Letters About Literature satisfies Tennessee English/Language Arts Curriculum and Common Core Standards. If you'd like more information on ways you can adapt this program to Common Core Standards for Writing, download this teacher's guide from the national Letters About Literature office.

Prizes: Humanities Tennessee has its own panel of judges who select the top entries in the state. State Winners at each level will receive a cash award from Humanities Tennessee (1st at each level receives $100 and advances to the national judging, 2nd place receives $50, and 3rd place receives $25) and a certificate. The 1st place winner on Level 3 will also be awarded a full scholarship to attend the TN Young Writers' Workshop in July 2015.

National Prizes: First place winners advance to the national level judging. A panel of national judges for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress will select one National Winner per competition level to receive a $1,000 cash award. The judges will also select one National Honor per competition level to receive a $200 cash award.                 

If you have questions about this year's LAL contest, contact or call 615.770.0006 x19. The program is presented by Humanities Tennessee, home of the Tennessee Center for the Book in affiliation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Read the 2014 Letters About Literature winners here... 

Past National Letters About Literature winners from Tennessee

  • 2010: Siori Koerner for her letter to J.D. Salinger about Catcher in the Rye. Siori earned Christiana Middle School in Christiana a $10,000 reading grant from Target.
  • 2010: Malli Swamy won a National Honorable Mention for her letter to Paolo Coelho about The Alchemist. Malli earned White Station High School in Memphis a $1,000 reading grant.
  • 2009: Caroline Hoskins for her letter to Cynthia Lord about Rules. Caroline earned St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis a $10,000 reading grant.
  • 2008: Ayesha Usmani for her letter to Amy Tan about The Joy Luck Club. Ayesha earned White Station High School in Memphis a $10,000 reading grant.
  • 2006: Martha Park for her letter to J.D. Salinger about Catcher in the Rye. Martha was invited to read her letter at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
LAL Entry Guidelines 2015.pdf159.39 KB
LAL Teaching Booklet 2014-2015.pdf1.16 MB