Past Winners

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.

We’ll never stop being proud of Maryland’s Letters About Literature (LAL) students!

Check out the future of writing with our full list of past LAL winners.

Year Level Winner
2018 1 Lucy Virgilio, Individual Entry, Frederick County – How to Speak Chicken, Melissa Caughey
  2 Parker O’Brien, Leonardtown Middle School, St. Mary’s County – The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
  3 Max McKenna, Catonsville High School, Baltimore County –Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
2017 1 Tori Delaine Johnson, Individual Entry, Prince George’s County – I Love My Hair!,  Natasha Tarpley
  2 Salihah Aakil, Individual Entry, Montgomery County – “Ugly”, Warsan Shire
  3 Angela Estavillo, Notre Dame Preparatory School, Baltimore County – The Killing Sea, Richard Lewis
2016 1 Margaret Kato, Lake Elkhorn Middle School, Howard County – Horses of the Dawn series, Kathryn Lasky
  2 Noor Saleem, Green Acres School, Montgomery County – The Matchstick Girl”, Hans Christian Andersen
  3 Lauralee An, Catonsville High School, Baltimore County – Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
2015 1 Dhruv Pai, Individual Entry, Montgomery County – A Series of Unfortunate Events, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
  2 Juliana Gorman [NATIONAL HONOR RECIPIENT], Notre Dame Preparatory School, Baltimore County – Night, Elie Wiesel
  3 Norman Xiang, Individual Entry, Anne Arundel County – The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
2014 1 Gillian Blum, Krieger Schechter Day School, Baltimore County – The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
  2 Jisoo Choi [NATIONAL WINNER], Burleigh Manor Middle School, Howard County; The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
  3 Ella Marcovitz, Parkville High School, Baltimore County – The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Alexandra Robbins
2013 1 Jordan Rose, Kent County Middle School, Kent County – Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Ben Carson
  2 Elizabeth Macksey, Bryn Mawr School, Baltimore City – Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
  3 Courtney Sipes, Kent County High School, Kent County – Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
2012 1 Jisoo Choi, Burleigh Manor Middle School, Howard County – Someone Named Eva, Joan Wolf
  2 Claire Jenkins, St. John the Baptist School, Montgomery County – The Little Engine That Could, Watty Pipe
  3 Adam Antoszewski, Catonsville High School, Baltimore County – Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
2011 1 Melina George, Notre Dame Preparatory School, Baltimore County – Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
  2 Jordan Coo, Patterson Mill Middle School, Harford County – The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
  3 Rebecca Thayer, Bishop Walsh School, Allegany County – Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
2010 1 Nimai Agarwal, Individual entry, Montgomery County – The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
  2 Claire Wang, Individual entry, Frederick County – The Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
  3 Carson Wigley, Worcester Preparatory School, Worcester County, Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco
2009 1 Cameron Fitzgerald, St. Martins‐in‐the‐Field Day School, Anne Arundel County – White Fang,Jack London
  2 Solon Snider, Individual Entry, Anne Arundel County – The World to Come, Dara Horn
  3 Madeline E. Holland, Individual entry, Montgomery County – Ithaca, Constantine Cavafy
2008 1 Karina Shrama, Braddock Middle School, Allegany County – Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan
  2 Kaley Booth, Bennett Middle School, Wicomico County – A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, Ann Martin
  3 Maggie Tighe [NATIONAL WINNER], Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Frederick County – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
2007 1 Elizabeth Smith, Grace Episcopal Day School, Montgomery County – Hoot, Carl Hiassen
  2 Ryan Martin Eaves, Walkersville Middle School, Frederick County – The Dead Man in Indian Creek, Mary Downing Hahn
  3 David Kalikhman, Gilman School, Baltimore City – Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
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