Letters About Literature Contest Honors Maryland Student Scribes and Presents The Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award

March 31, 2015

Have you ever, after reading a book, wanted to tell an author how his or her words changed your life?  Students will be honored as Maryland finalists on April 25th at the Enoch Pratt Free Library for their entries in the 2015 Letters About Literature contest. The Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher Award, honoring a Maryland teacher who works to promote reading by employing creative teaching methods, will also be presented during the awards ceremony.

Letters About Literature is a state and national writing contest that encourages young readers in grades 4 to 12 to respond to an author through a letter expressing how that author and book changed their worldview and themselves. A signature program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, Letters About Literature is implemented at the state level by the Maryland Center for the Book at the Maryland Humanities Council.  This year 52,000 students competed nationwide, with 1,928 of them hailing from Maryland. First-place winners on the state level receive a cash award and advance to the national competition in April.

The contest promotes creative writing, encourages life-long reading, and develops critical reading and writing skills that students need to be successful in life.  Judges select top essayists in three levels: level I for young readers in grades 4 through 6; level II for grade 7 and 8 readers, and level III, for readers in grades 9 to 12. A panel of judges from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress selects one national winner per competition level, each of whom will receive a $1,000 cash prize.  A second place winner will also be selected for each competition level as well and will receive a $200 cash prize.

Baltimore writer Erin Hagar will serve as the keynote speaker during the awards.  Erin Hagar writes fiction and nonfiction for children and teens. After several years working in curriculum and instruction for colleges and universities, she earned her M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. An Eastern Shore native, Hagar now lives in Baltimore with her husband, two children, and a “few too many pets.”

Maryland celebrated a National winner in 2014. Jisoo Choi, who was an eighth grade student at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Ellicott City, was named a National Letters About Literature winner (level II: 7-8 grades) for her letter to Anne Frank for The Diary of a Young Girl.

The Awards ceremony will take place Saturday April 25th at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Wheeler Auditorium from 11am – 12:15pm. All Maryland state finalists are presented with an award certificate. The winner and runner up for each level will also receive a cash prize.  For information about the national program, visit www.read.gov/letters.

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