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Letters About Literature: Missouri: Home


Letters About Literature


Letters About Literature

Writing Contest for Young Readers Grades 4-12

 Sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress
in association with Missouri Center for the Book
and made possible by a grant from Dollar General Literacy Foundation

Contest theme:    Write a personal letter to an author whose work (either fiction or nonfiction) changed your view of the world or yourself.

How to Enter

First: determine your competition level. LAL welcomes entries from all readers — reluctant as well as enthusiastic — on three levels of competition. Entrants must be at least 9 years old and fall into one of the following categories:

Level 1 — Grades 4–6                      Level 2 — Grades 7-8                      Level 3 — Grades 9-12

Second: Select and reflect! Select a fiction or nonfiction book you have read and about which you have strong feelings. Explore those feelings and why you reacted the way you did during or after reading the author’s work. Consider these questions when writing your letter:

  • What did the book show you about your world that you never noticed before?
  • What did you realize about yourself as a result of reading this book?
  • Why was this work meaningful to you?
  • How do you know the author’s work influenced you?

Third: Write a persuasive letter stating your opinion and supporting that opinion with specific details. A letter is less formal than an essay or research paper. Write honestly and in your own voice, as if you were having a conversation with the author. Those are the best letters to read and the most fun to write! Keep in mind these two tips:

  • Correspond, don’t compliment! Your letter should inform rather than flatter the author. All FAN letters will be eliminated!
  • Do not summarize the book’s plot! The author wrote the book and knows what happened. What the author doesn’t know is how the book affected you and why it did so. Only YOU can explain that unique relationship you experienced while reading the book.

Fourth: Submit your letter and the required entry coupon by the postmark deadline:

                                        December 2, 2016                Deadline for Level 3: grades 9 – 12

                                        January 9, 2017                   Deadline for Level 1: grades 4-6, & Level 2: grades 7 & 8


LAL awards prizes on both the state and national levels. Each participating state center has its own panel of judges who select the top essayists in the state. State Winners will receive a cash award and advance to the national level judging.  A panel of national judges for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress will select one National Winner per competition level to receive a $1,000 cash award. The judges will also select one National Honor winner per competition level to receive a $200 cash award.

Need some tips to get started?  Not sure how to    write a personal letter?   Visit  to read winning letters from past competitions.

P.S.  Remember, a letter is less formal than an essay or research paper. Write honestly and in your own voice as if you were having a conversation with the author.  Those are the best letters to read and the most fun to write! 


2014 National Prize winners from Missouri

Level 1

Jayanth V. Uppaluri’s letter to Sharon Draper, author of "Out of My Mind." Uppaluri is from Clayton, Missouri

Level 3

Devi Acharya’s letter to George Orwell, author of "Animal Farm" and "1984." Acharya is from University City, Missouri.

Contact Information

                     Mail your entry to::                                                                                                                 For more information contact:

                     Letters About Literature Competition Level
                     c/o Cathy Gourley, Project Manager                                                                                       Naomi Williamson
                     81 Oliver Street                                                                                                                       Missouri Center for the Book President and 
                     Wilkes-Barre, PA 18705                                                                                                              Missouri Letters About Literature Coordinator

                                                                                                                                                                    James C. Kirkpatrick Library
​                    Catherine Gourley, National Program Director                                                                        University of Central Missouri
​                                                                                                                                                                    Warrensburg, MO  64093

Missouri Center for the Book


The Missouri Center for the  Book is a state affiliate of the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Missouri Center is governed by a board of directors composed of authors, publishers, librarians, educators, and community leaders. The board develops programs and plans activities to stimulate  public interest in books and reading across the state.