Library of Congress Kicks Off Writing Competition for Young Readers

Letters About Literature program, by the US Library of Congress.
Letters About Literature program, by the US Library of Congress.

By Benny Seda-Galarza, Kathleen McGuigan, and Laura Rivas

The Letters About Literature program kicks off its 25th annual competition, run by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, with a special webinar for educators interested in learning more about the program and how to use it in a classroom on October 25, 2017, at 4pm.

The program invites readers in grades four through 12 to share letters they have written to authors whose books affected them. For more information about the contest, including instructions for entering and deadlines for each state, and to register for the webinar, visit

The contest challenges young readers to explore and express how books have changed their view of the world or of themselves. The initiative is designed to instill a lifelong love of reading in our nation’s youth and to engage and nurture their passion for literature. More than one million students have participated in the contest since it began.

A new book from Candlewick Press in association with the Library and edited by Catherine Gourly, titled “Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives,” collects 52 letters submitted to the program that contain insights as profound as they are personal. In one letter, Annie Schnitzer wrote Elie Wiesel, “Reading your story allowed me to connect with my own history,” explaining how reading his memoir deepened her understanding of her grandparents’ plight during the Holocaust. After reading “The House of Mango Street,” Julia Mueller wrote to Sandra Cisneros, “You didn’t tell me how to pull myself back together; you just showed me that I could. I was trying to be somebody else’s definition of beautiful, and you told me that was okay.”

The letters in this collection offer a glimpse into young people’s lives and their powerful connections to the written word. Booklist calls “Journeys” “a wise pick for educational settings,” and Kirkus Reviews said “students’ letters reveal how deeply books and poetry affect the lives of young readers,” calling them “earnest and often revealing.”

Research has proven a strong link between reading and writing: children who read, write better and children who write, read more. It has also been shown that students benefit most from literacy instruction when they have a personal connection to their reading and writing activities. Letters About Literature was created to channel both those facts – providing an opportunity for students to read and write and challenging students to identify a personal connection with the books they read.

“Journeys” is available in hardcover ($18.99), softcover ($9.99) and e-book ($9.99) editions. It is available at the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First Street SE, Washington, DC, 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at 888.682.3557 or

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress promotes books, reading, literacy, and libraries, as well as the scholarly study of books. It was founded in 1977 and has established affiliate centers across the country and in the US Virgin Islands. The Letters About Literature program is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book.

The Library of Congress offers access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the US Congress and the home of the US Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at

Source: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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