OLYMPIA...An annual national contest that encourages students to put their thoughts about a book into words is underway.
Now in its ninth year in Washington, the Letters About Literature competition encourages young readers to write letters to their favorite authors, living or dead. The contest, co-sponsored by the Washington State Library, is for schoolchildren in grades 4-12 and those who are homeschooled.
"I love to read for entertainment and to learn more," said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. "I encourage all kids to read because it gives them a strong foundation to be successful in school and life. The Letters About Literature contest is a great way for students to think about how a favorite book touches them and to put their thoughts about that book onto paper."
State Librarian Rand Simmons says Letters About Literature is an annual highlight for him and the State Library staff.
"It's amazing how books can touch young readers and help them see their world in a new way," Simmons said. "This contest helps students think about books they read and how they influence them. We've received many outstanding and thoughtful letters from students since the contest started, and we encourage even more students to take part this year."
Students enter the contest by writing a personal letter to an author, explaining how his or her work shaped the students' perspective on the world or themselves. Students can write about works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. They cannot write about music lyrics. Entries in Spanish will be accepted and translated for the Washington State judges.
Letter writers compete at three levels: Level 1 for grades 4-6;Level 2 for grades 7-8;and Level 3 for grades 9-12. Entrants must be at least 9 years old. One letter from each level from each state is entered into the national competition.
There are two deadlines for this year's contest: All Level 3 entries must be postmarked by Dec. 10. All entries for Levels 1 and 2 must be postmarked by Jan. 10, 2014.
The state's winners will be announced in March. A ceremony to honor the Washington champions, runners-up and honorable mentions will be held at the State Capitol in Olympia next spring.
About 3,400 Washington students went through the judging process in the last competition. Nearly 100 schools, as well as Boys & Girls Clubs from around the state, had entries.
The contest's other sponsors include the Office of Secretary of State and the Center for the Book, which is operated by the Library of Congress. The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.
Each letter must be accompanied by an entry coupon that can be found at http://www.sos.wa.gov/library/lal/Letters-About-Literature-2014.aspx. Coupons should be stapled to the last page of the letter. Entries should be mailed to:
Letters About Literature
Competition Level (Indicate Level 1, 2 or 3)
P.O. Box 5308
Woodbridge, VA 22194
Teachers, librarians and parents can download contest materials, including lesson plans, assessment checklists, and writing samples, by visiting the national Letters About Literature website at www.lettersaboutliterature.org.
State judges select each level's top letter writer, who receives a $125 cash award and advances to the national competition.
A panel of national judges for the Center for the Book will select one national winner per competition level. National winners will receive a $1,000 cash award.
For more information about the contest, contact the State Library's Crystal Lentz at (360) 704-5275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.