An Exciting Conclusion for Annual Letters about Literature Contest!

The annual Letters about Literature competition has come to an exciting conclusion with nearly 2,000 students (1,773) from across the length and breadth of the Buckeye state participating. Once again, Ohio students have upheld the state’s strong literary heritage and, nationally, have secured her place in the literary firmament of tomorrow.

Students found enlightenment reading a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature, ranging from Shel Silverstein’s poignant classic The Giving Tree to the galvanizing poetry of Nikki Giovanni.

Directly experiencing the power of literature, students obtained from the novels, poems, speeches, and biographies which they read a greater self-awareness and understanding of themselves and those around them. This understanding led to the formulation of plans, strategies for self-betterment. Through the insight and experiences of authors, Ohio students are beginning, with a hopeful outlook, brighter chapters in their lives. They will find that, through its collection, programming and community partnerships, the Ohio Center for the Book@Cleveland Public Library will be an engaging partner in their metamorphosis, a stalwart friend on the road ahead, a road into a brighter tomorrow.

A special thanks goes out to all the educators and students who participated, whether again or for the very first time. The contest would not be possible without you.

Notice of Ohio Winners and Honorable Finalists in the 2018/2019 national Letters about Literature contest

LEVEL I (Grades 4, 5, & 6)

First Place Winner

E V A N   K O T I C K

(Grade 6: A. I. Root Middle School, Medina, Ohio: Kerilyn O’Brien, sponsor)
Letter to author Michael Lewis concerning Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game, a joint biography of Lawrence Julius Taylor, linebacker, N.Y. Mets and Michael Jerome Oher, offensive tackle, Baltimore Ravens

Second Place Winner

A R M A N   E M A M

(Grade 5: Birchwood School of Hawken, Cleveland, Ohio: Richard Kurtz, sponsor) Letter to novelist Rick Riordan concerning his book The Lightning Thief

Third Place Winner
F A L A   A L D H O H A Y A N 
(Grade 6: Stowe, Ohio: Abdulaziz Aldhohayan, sponsor)
Letter to novelist Soman Chainani concerning his series The School for Good and Evil

Honorable Finalist
A. J.  C L A P P

(Grade 5: Tremont Elementary School, Upper Arlington, Ohio: Jill Bixell, sponsor) Letter to novelist Gordon Korman concerning his book Restart

Honorable Finalist
M A C I E   M O R E L A N D
(Grade 6: Saint Brigid Elementary School, Dublin, Ohio: Jill Cecutti, sponsor)
Letter to novelist Margaret Peterson Haddix concerning her book Double Identity

Honorable Finalist
A V A   S U T T E R

(Grade 5: Notre Dame Elementary School, Chardon, Ohio: Deborah Mullhall, sponsor) Letter to novelist Shel Silverstein concerning his book The Giving Tree

Honorable Finalist
R Y A N   W E B E R

(Grade 5: Kenston Elementary School, Chagrin Falls, Ohio: Erin Bryan, Sponsor) Letter to novelist Shel Silverstein concerning his book The Giving Tree

LEVEL II (Grades 7 & 8)

First Place Winner
L E O N   W R I G H T

(Grade 8: Teays Valley Middle School, Ashville, Ohio: Amy Horsley, sponsor)
Letter to novelist Ellen Whittlinger regarding her book Parrotfish

Second Place Winner
L I L Y   G O E H R I N G

(Grade 8: Saint Michael the Archangel School, Canton, Ohio: Amy Krajeck, sponsor) Letter to novelist Jennifer Nevin concerning her book Holding Up the Universe

Third Place Winner
S H E L B Y   B E N N E T T

(Grade 8: Olmsted Falls Middle School, Olmsted Township, Ohio: Thimi Kemock, sponsor) Letter to gymnast Simone Biles concerning her autobiography Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance

Honorable Finalist
I S A I A H   L E W I S

(Grade 7: Liking Valley Middle School, Newark, Ohio: Sara Lang, sponsor)
Letter to novelist Neal Schusterman concerning his book Unwind

Honorable Finalist
M A L I K   M U S L E H
(Grade 7: Lee Burneson Middle School, Westlake, Ohio: Deborah Schrembeck, sponsor) Letter to novelist S. L. Rottman concerning his book Hero

Honorable Finalist
A L E X   N I C E M A N 

(Grade 7: Lee Burneson Middle School, Westlake, Ohio: Sarah Latkowski, sponsor) Letter to novelist Alexander Gordon Smith concerning his book Lockdown: Escape From Furnace 1

Honorable Finalist
L I L Y A  R E Y N O L D S

(Grade 8: Hastings Middle School, Upper Arlington, Ohio: Vincent De Maria, sponsor) Letter to novelist Angie Thomas concerning her book The Hate U Give

LEVEL III (Grades 9, 10, 11, 12)

First Place Winner
T E J A L   P E N D E K A N T I  

(Grade 11: Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, Ohio: Scott Parsons, sponsor) Letter to novelist Gloria Anzaldúa concerning her semi-autobiography Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Second Place Winner
S H I V A N G I   S E N G U P T A 

(Grade 9: Maiti Baidehi, sponsor) Letter to novelist J. D. Salinger concerning his book The Catcher in the Rye

Third Place Winner
L A N A E   W H E A T

(Grade 9: Harding High School, Marion, Ohio: Amy Dunmire, sponsor) Letter to novelist Angie Thomas concerning her book The Hate U Give

Honorable Finalist
D A M I Y A  B Y N E S

(Grade 9: Glenville High School, Cleveland Ohio: Elaine Griffin, sponsor)
Letter to poet Nikki Giovanni concerning her poem “House Cleaning”

Honorable Finalist
E R I C A R A E   H E R R I C K

(Grade 9: Liberty Center High School, Liberty Center, Ohio: Dawn Mericle, sponsor) Letter to novelist Joey Graceffa concerning his book Children of Eden

Honorable Finalist
M O R G A N   M E I S S N E R

(Grade 11: Westerville Central High School, Westerville, Ohio: Jim Grannis, sponsor) Letter to poet Abdullah Shoaib concerning his poem “Pretty Ugly”

Honorable Finalist
A B B Y   Y O C U M

(Grade 11: Boardman High School. Boardman, Ohio: Randy Nord, sponsor)
Letter to ballet dancer Misty Copeland concerning her autobiography,
A Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. My Story of Adversity and Grace

S T A T S   &  O B S E R V A T I O N S

Statewide, Letters about Literature was promoted to:
• Educators of English and Language Arts at public, private schools and academies
• Parochial schools
• Jewish and Islamic day schools
• Public library managers
• Children and teen mental health professionals
• Neighborhood organizations & foundations providing assistance to children & Young Adults

1,773 students submitted entries in 2018/2019. Participation numbers per contest level were:
• Level I (Grades 4, 5, and 6): 411 students
• Level II (Grades 7 & 8): 705 students
• Level III (Grades 9-12): 657 students

*2018/2019 marked a milestone in the contest. It was the first year in which the Submittable platform was utilized and Ohio became what is referred to as a self-managing state. This meant that all mailed entries went directly to Timothy Phillips, Subject Department Librarian, Literature rather than undergo preliminary judging by staff of the Library of Congress beforehand.

Official Library of Congress Grading Rubric

  • ADDRESSES THEME:  The entry is written to the author and provides reflective details to support how the author’s work changed the reader’s view of the world or self.
  • CONTENT:   The reader provides explanations or examples, anecdotes, and other specific details to support his or her point of view. The reader related the book to himself or herself rather than summarizing the book’s plot or literary elements.
  • EXPRESSION:  The writing in the entry is fluent and includes appropriately chosen vocabulary. The entry is personalized, with unique and creative content and language.
  • STRUCTURE:   Entry presents ideas in a logical, organized, manner without unnecessary repetition.

The Letters About Literature 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. Additional information concerning the national Letters About Literature contest can be found at