Alaska Center for the Book, in partnership with the Library of Congress Center for the Book and Target stores, sponsors an interesting and worthwhile contest every year for students in grades 4 through 12 called Letters About Literature. It's a writing contest with a challenging construct: students are asked to write a letter to an author, alive or dead, about how that writer's work changed the student's understanding of self or others.
I served as a judge one year and was impressed by the depth of some responses. They are further proof that students are still reading and thinking deeply, and that the work of writing is valuable and necessary.
Another very cool thing about the contest is the prizes. At the state level, winners receive $100, a $50 Target gift card and are entered into the national competition. At the national level, top prizes include $500 Target cards and $10,000 grants to promote reading for the student's library of choice! I love the concept of rewarding both the student and the community.
This is no small prize and one for which Alaskan students can compete as effectively as anyone else. Indeed, last year Alaskan Anna Wichorek, at that time a junior at West High in Anchorage, won the national competition for her letter to Velma Wallis, author of Two Old Women. Wichorek's $10,000 went to Mountain View Elementary School library. What a great way to make a difference!
The competition is broken into three levels: grades 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12. For more information and official entry forms, visit the Alaska Center for the Book website.