Letters About Literature (LAL) is an annual writing contest for young readers sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Letters About Literature (LAL) writing contest for young readers challenges students to write a personal letter to an author of a fiction or nonfiction book that inspired them. The contest is open to students in grades 4-10.
LAL awards prizes on both the state and national levels. Each participating state center has its own panel of judges who select the top essayists in the state. State winners will receive cash awards and 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 also will select one second-place winner on each competition level to receive a $150 cash award.
Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
- Content (addressing the contest theme)
- Writer’s Voice (writing style and originality of expression)
- Exposition (language skills, organization and grammar)
Each criterion will be scored on a scale of zero to five, where five is excellent and zero is not fulfilling the judging criteria.
Entries must be postmarked by Jan. 11, 2013 (and arrive at LAL Central no later than Jan. 23, 2013). Click here for guidelines, application and more information.
Kentucky LAL Awards and Guidelines
LAL and the Common Core State Standards
LAL is confident that teachers can successfully adapt LAL’s writing prompt and activities as tools to help students achieve Common Core State Standards for writing. The letters below are annotated to show connections between LAL and the ELA standards.
CCSS LAL Chart
6th Grade Example
Margaret Lim, a sixth grade student from Searcy, Arkansas, wrote this letter to Sharon Draper for the Letters About Literature 2012 competition. Her entry took Arkansas’s first place prize on Level 1 (grades 4 – 6) and advanced to take one of the two national awards. Noted in sidebar comments are places where we believe the letter meets specific CCSS for writing in grades 6 – 8.
8th Grade Example
Diana Lanni, an eighth grade student from Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote this letter to poet Robert Service for the Letters About Literature 2012 competition. Her entry took Alaska’s first place prize on Level 2 (grades 7 - 8) and advanced to take one of the two national awards. Noted in sidebar comments are places where we believe the letter meets specific CCSS for writing in grades 6 – 8. Although Diana uses narrative techniques in her essay, we’ve analyzed her letter as an “Informative/Explanatory” text, consistent with Common core “Text Type and Purposes.”
Visit www.lettersaboutliterature.org or mail the national office at firstname.lastname@example.org to download free lesson plans, assessment checklists and student writing samples.