The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book is kicking off this year’s Letters About Literature program, which invites children and teens nationwide to share letters to authors—both living and dead—whose work has had a significant impact on them. Since the writing contest was established 25 years ago, in an effort to instill a love of reading in young people, more than one million students in grades 4–12 have contributed their personal essays.
This year’s program begins on October 25, with a webinar for educators interested in implementing it in their classrooms. In celebration of the longstanding contest, Candlewick Press has partnered with the Library of Congress to publish an anthology of students’ letters edited by Catherine Gourly, Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives. The book, which was released in August, features 52 letters from students, illuminating their personal connections to classic and contemporary stories.
In one letter featured in the collection, Annie Schnitzer writes to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, author of the memoir Night, “Reading your story allowed me to connect with my own history.” Julia Mueller writes in response to Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, “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.”
Entries for the Letters About Literature contest are evaluated on both state and national levels by a panel of judges that includes authors, publishers, teachers, and librarians. The 2017–2018 national winners will be announced in April 2018.