Letters About Literature Comes to an End

It is bittersweet to announce that after 27 years the Letters About Literature contest has ended. After much evaluation, the Library of Congress decided that the 2018–2019 contest would be the final year of Letters About Literature. With the loss of the infrastructure and administration the Library of Congress provided, we will not be continuing the contest. The Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award is ending with the conclusion of Letters About Literature. We thank all of the teachers and students who made the program possible.

Congratulations to Maryland’s 2019 LAL Winners, Runners-Up & Finalists!

Hundreds celebrate Maryland’s 2019 LAL Finalists

On May 4, more than 200 people gathered to celebrate Maryland’s 101 state finalists at the 2019 Letters About Literature Awards Ceremony. Congressman John Sarbanes and Michael Sarbanes joined Phoebe Stein, executive director of Maryland Humanities, in presenting certificates to our finalists.

Local author Melinda Beatty delivered the keynote address, moving the audience with her lively speech about how elements of the fantasy and science fiction genres can enhance all types of writing and her pride in the passionate letters from the finalists. Maryland state winners Clara Winkel, and Esther Kim read their inspiring letters aloud, captivating the audience and receiving well-deserved standing ovations. Anthony Charles, the Level One state winner was congratulated in absentia.

Thank you to our partners and friends at Mercy High School Baltimore for hosting this event!

Level 2019 Winner 2019 Runner-Up
Level 1 Anthony Charles, from Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights, wrote his letter to Jerry Spinelli about his book Maniac Magee. Vivien Kaplan, from The Key School in Annapolis, wrote her letter to Lauren Wolk about her book Wolf Hollow.
Level 2 Clara Winkel, from Leonardtown Middle School in Leonardtown, wrote her letter to Portia Nelson about her poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.” Storrie Kulynych-Irvin, from Annapolis, wrote her letter to Helena Kelly about her book Jane Austen, The Secret Radical.
Level 3 Esther Kim, from Potomac, wrote her letter to Franny Choi about her poem Choi Jeong Min.” Emmy Song, from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, wrote her letter to Michelle Obama about her book Becoming.

Congratulations to all 101 finalists! See the complete list of Maryland’s 2019 Letters About Literature state finalists.

 Maryland’s past LAL winners

  • “For the second year, my students are demonstrating an enthusiasm and effort that surpasses what they usually display. I know this is due to the wonderful opportunity you provide – a chance to write to their favorite author. Authentic communication truly inspires my students! … I am confident that this will become a significant memory in my students’ sixth grade experience. How wonderful that it should promote the beauty and the strength of the written word.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “Over the past few years, I have noticed a decline in the number of students who read for pleasure. This type of contest certainly fosters that love of reading.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “Last year was the first time our school participated in the program and one of our students was selected! She was thrilled to be recognized and has been an inspiration to other students. I am so thankful for all the support provided by Maryland Humanities. They reach out and are incredibly helpful and willing to provide resources and opportunities. We appreciate the genuine interest they have in our students!”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “In a test-driven educational system, we can sometimes lose sight of what is important. Allowing students time to read and discuss literature can never be underestimated. I appreciate that Letters About Literature recognizes, promotes, and fosters the importance of literature by getting students to write to authors. This contest gives students the opportunity to really think about how a piece has impacted them. I know that the authors don’t necessarily read the letters addressed to them through the contest, but my students have often sent an additional copy of their letter to the author. The euphoria and excitement that comes over the kids who are lucky enough to have the author respond is heart-warming. Just this past year, a student of mine received a personal letter, an autographed book, and other items of appreciation from the author he wrote to.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “This contest gives [students] a chance to practice [letter writing] while also expressing themselves about a work of literature or a particular author that has made an impact on them personally. As a teacher, I benefit from reading the letters because I always learn new things about each student.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “A few years ago a student connected with a novel describing a family merging from two families that had been traumatized by divorce. Her own family was in the process of this same event. Because of her selection I was able to learn what she was going through. No other assignment would have been quite so helpful for revealing and honoring her feelings.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “I want to thank you for opening the door to writing about reading… By providing students with the opportunity to write about a genre and a book that is of interest, they are more willing to open up, get personal, and write to their full potential. It is amazing what children are able to produce when they enjoy the task at hand.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “The year before last, one of my students lost her father to a heart attack at the beginning of the school year. Books were her connection to her father. The shock of the sudden passing, and the newness of having to take care of her younger siblings would not allow her to grieve, and she spent the first few months in therapy due to this. LAL enabled her to reconnect with her father on a different plane, through the framework of books they enjoyed together. Due to this, she was express her grief & allow healing to begin.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “Besides giving my students a relaxed writing situation with a non-threatening prompt (a personal letter, after all), your program challenges students to think ‘outside the box.'”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
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Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities.
Maryland Humanities
108 West Centre Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201-4565
(410) 685-0095
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