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

April 28, 2016

Letter-Writing Contest Coordinated by Maryland Humanities Council Engaged Nearly 1,900 Maryland Students This Year

(Baltimore, MD) – Have you ever wanted to tell an author how his or her words changed your life? Ninety-one Maryland students were honored for sharing these perspectives with their favorite authors on April 23rd at the Maryland Humanities Council’s 2016 Letters About Literature Awards Ceremony. The Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award, honoring a Maryland teacher who works to promote reading by employing creative teaching methods, was also presented during the awards ceremony. Local author Laura Shovan delivered the keynote address.

Letters About Literature is a national writing contest that encourages young readers in grades 4 to 12 to write to the author of a book expressing how that book changed their view of themselves or the world. 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 over 47,000 students competed nationwide, with just under 1,900 of them hailing from Maryland. First-place winners on the state level receive a cash award and advance to the national competition.

The contest inspires creativity, encourages life-long readers, and develops critical reading and writing skills that students need to be successful in life. Judges select top essayists on three levels: Level 1 for young readers in grades 4 through 6; Level 2 for grade 7 and 8 readers; and Level 3 for readers in grades 9 to 12. A panel of judges for 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 is selected at each competition level as well, and these national awardees each receive a $200 cash prize.

The 2016 winning Maryland Contest letters: 

Level 1: Margaret Kato, from Lake Elkhorn Middle School in Columbia, Maryland, wrote her letter to Kathryn Lasky about her series Horses of the Dawn.

Level 2: Noor Saleem, from Green Acres School in Bethesda, Maryland, wrote her letter to Hans Christian Anderson about his short story “The Matchstick Girl.”

Level 3: Lauralee An, from Catonsville High School in Catonsville, Maryland, wrote her letter to Rainbow Rowell about her novel Eleanor and Park.

This year’s awards ceremony took place April 23rd at the University of Baltimore School of Law. All Maryland state finalists were presented with an award certificate. The winner and runner up for each level also received a cash prize. To view a complete list of Maryland state finalists, visit www.mdhc.org. For information about the national program, visit www.read.gov/letters.

The 2016 Christine Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Winner: Diane Curry

Originally from Montgomery County, Diane Curry has been teaching in Maryland for the past 20 years. As an English teacher and Instructional Lead, Ms. Curry has opened a world of creative writing and reading opportunities for students and teachers alike at River Hill High School in Howard County.  Under Ms. Curry’s leadership, River Hill High has developed an active culture of reading, including the “One Book One River Hill” all-school reading program, a Banned Books Week “Read In,” Skype book discussions in Spanish, and the March Madness for literature “Tournament of Books.”

Keynote Speaker: Laura Shovan
Laura Shovan is a former editor for the literary journal Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Ms. Shovan teaches for the Maryland State Arts Council Artists-in-Residence Program and has edited two Maryland Writers’ Association anthologies. Ms. Shovan served as the 2015-2016 Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s Writer in Residence. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary is her first book for children.

About the Maryland Humanities Council

The Maryland Humanities Council is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization. The Maryland Humanities Council creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. For more information, visit www.mdhc.org. The Maryland Humanities Council is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the State of Maryland, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Awards.

About the Maryland Center for the Book

The Maryland Center for the Book (MCFB), one of 52 state affiliates of the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, develops and supports literary programs and outreach activities that engage citizens across Maryland in literature and reading. As a program of the Maryland Humanities Council, MCFB highlights our region’s literary heritage and calls attention to the importance of books, reading, literacy and libraries. MCFB has satellites at Talbot County Free Library and Washington County Free Library.

About Letters About Literature

Letters About Literature is an annual writing contest that promotes reading and writing, inspires creativity, and encourages young people to be lifelong readers.

This year’s 23rd annual writing contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries and other organizations.

Press Release