Each year, The Library of Congress hosts the Letters About Literature (LAL) nationwide contest for elementary, middle and high school students. This year the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education was selected as a sponsor for this year’s contest.
Letters About Literature is a contest offered annually to students in grades 4-12. Participants are tasked with reading a book, poem or speech and writing a letter to the author (alive or deceased) noting how the work personally affected them. Winners are chosen from each state, with the first-place entries then advancing to a national judging round where National Winners and National Honor Winners are chosen- winning $1,000 and $200 respectively, according to read.gov/letters.
This year’s letter theme is: “Write a personal letter to an author explaining how his/her book changed your view of the world or yourself.” The submission deadlines are Jan. 11, 2016 for grades 4-6 and 7-8, and Dec. 4, 2015 for grades 9-12. Other resources regarding detailed guidelines and the entry form for the contest can be found on Neag’s website and at read.gov/letters.
This is the first time the Neag School has been chosen to sponsor the program, and is Connecticut’s first state-level sponsor in five years. Neag was chosen due to its “its sustained commitment to educational outreach in the areas of literature study, reading and writing,” according to the school’s press release.
As part of its sponsorship, the Neag School will promote the contest in Connecticut schools, provide professional development for teachers who are judging the entries and help celebrate the success of young writers and the value of literature, Glenn said.
Wendy Glenn, a professor of English education for Neag, is the faculty representative for the LAL contest in Connecticut. She said the Neag School was selected as a result of an initial relationship she developed through the Fulbright Fellowship program, which she was part of in Norway in 2009-2010.
“While in Norway, I worked with LeeAnn Potter, who now serves as the Director of Educational Outreach for the Library of Congress,” Glenn said. “Given our shared passion for books and the kids who read them, she mentioned my name to Catherine Gourely, the program director of LAL, and a new collaboration was born.”
The LAL program is completely funded by the Library of Congress, with money being allocated toward advertising, state-level prizes and ceremony for winning authors. This year’s contest is also made possible through a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, according to Neag’s press release.
“I appreciate that participating students have the opportunity to write authentically and creatively about literature,” Glenn said of the contest.
The program allows students to think critically about a literary work that means something to them. The fact that they get to choose their own text opens doors to skill development and play, Glenn said.