How has a certain book, poem, or speech changed how you view yourself or the world? My answer doesn’t come readily. Yet tens of thousands of children and youth each year offer their responses in the form of a letter to the author, living or dead. Many letters are perceptive and moving.
Letters about Literature is a reading and writing contest sponsored by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book. Students in fourth grade through high school submit letters about “books that burrow down deep into your consciousness and stay there, festering,” in the words of one of last year’s honor award winners. Some letters describe how books helped students through personal experiences of loss, bullying, difference, stereotypes, and incarceration. This is not your traditional book report.
Who would I write to? I might thank Laura Ingalls Wilder or any of countless others for making me curious about how perspective shifts with culture, time, and place. I might thank A. A. Milne for helping make me a Universalist with his poem “King John’s Christmas,” which models wishing people happiness without regard to merit.
Student entries are judged at state and national levels. Entries for grades 9-12 must be postmarked by Dec. 2 and grades 4-6 and 7-8 by Jan. 9. Click here for guidelines and entry coupon.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.