Letters About Literature (LAL) invites young readers in Grades 4 through 12 to write letters to authors about books that have made an impact on them. In personal and reflective communication, readers talk back to authors about the ways in which books have come alive for them. In doing so, they assess their stake in books and reading, laying some of the foundations for life-long literacy.
The annual program 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 LAL through its affiliate centers for the book, state libraries and other organizations.
LAL receives letters from approximately 50,000 young people each year. The Massachusetts program, sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, is one of the most active in the country with anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 students writing letters each year.
Students submit letters to age-group categories:
Level 1 — Grades 4 through 6
Level 2 — Grades 7 and 8
Level 3 — Grades 9 through 12
Student achievement is recognized in four categories:
Massachusetts Top Honors awardees (one in each of the three age categories) are invited to a ceremony at the State House in the Spring. They receive commendations and often meet their elected representatives. Their letters are sent to the national competition, representing Massachusetts at the Library of Congress.
Massachusetts Honors awardees (usually the top 1 to 2% of writers) also are invited to a Spring ceremony at the Massachusetts State House in the Spring. They receive commendations and often meet their elected representatives.
Massachusetts Honorable Mentions (usually the top 5% of writers) receive certificates sent to homes or distributed through schools.
Massachusetts Finalists and Semi-Finalists (usually the top 10% to 15% of writers) receive electronic notification of their achievement level.
In the past decade, Massachusetts students have received three national awards and five national honorable mentions.