Letters About Literature

Theme for LAL. How did an author's work change your view of the world or yourself?

Each year the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in partnership with affiliate state centers for the book, invites readers in grades 4 through 12 to enter Letters About Literature, a national reading-writing contest. To enter, readers write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre– fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, explaining how that author’s work changed the student’s way of thinking about the world or themselves. There are three competition levels: Level I for children in grades 4 through 6; Level II for grades 7 and 8, and Level III, grades 9 – 12.

Information for Students and Teachers

Deadlines: Submissions from Grades 9-12 must be postmarked by December 2, 2016. Submissions from Grades 4-8 must be postmarked by January 8, 2017.

If you are in grades 4-12, you are eligible to enter the Letters About Literature reading and writing contest. You do not have to enter through a class. You can enter on your own. Here are the Guidelines and Entry Coupon.

The Letters About Literature Teaching Guide provides activities teachers can use to guide their students through the book discussion and letter-writing process. The guide addresses the LAL teaching strategies and ways in which the program can dovetail with curriculum for teaching reading and writing. Also included are worksheets for duplication and assessment checklists.

State winners receive cash prizes provided by the South Carolina State Library Foundation.

Find out more about the program and how your school or individual child can get involved. You can also view photos from the 2015-2016 awards ceremony on our Flickr account.

2015-2016 Winners

Level I

1st Place - Michaela Lanier, Blythewood, $100
2nd Place - Lily Zimmermann, Thomas Cario Middle School, Mt. Pleasant, $50
3rd Place - Alex Levin, Thomas Cario Middle School, Mt. Pleasant, $25

Level II

1st Place - Kenley Watts, Atheneum, North Myrtle Beach, $100
2nd Place - Jiani (Jenny) Zhang, Green Charter School, Greenville, $50
3rd Place - Lucia Brown, Columbia, $25

Level III

1st Place - Micah Wingard, Lexington, $100
2nd Place - Hannah Martin, Charleston, $50
3rd Place - Chinenye Agim, Columbia, $25

Speaker at the Center Lunchtime Programs

In Summer 2007, the SC Center for the Book initiated a Speaker at the Center lunchtime series.   The program is free and open to the public and attendees should feel free to bring a bag lunch. Visit our events page for a current listing.


route one reads logo

The State Centers for the Book linked by US Route 1 which extends from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Florida are joining together to promote books that illuminate important aspects of their states/commonwealths for readers traveling the major and meandering highway.

For 2016, the South Carolina Center for the Book's Route1Reads is C. Hope Clark's Murder on Editso. About the book: A big city detective. A lowcountry murder. Peace, safety, a place to grieve and heal. After her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan comes home to her family's cottage in South Carolina. There, she can keep their teenage son, Jeb, away from further threats. But the day they arrive in Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Taunted by the killer, who repeatedly violates her home and threatens others in the community, Callie finds her new sanctuary has become her old nightmare. Despite warnings from the town's handsome police chief, Callie plunges back into detective work, pursuing a sinister stranger who may have ties to her past. He's turning a quiet paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody's safe. She'll do whatever it takes to stop him. 

For 2015, the South Carolina Center for the Book’s Route1Reads is James E. McTeer's Minnow. Minnow was the winner of the 2014 South Carolina First Novel Competition. McTeer’s novel was published by Hub City Press and made its debut at the South Carolina Book Festival in May 2015. "Minnow is a gorgeous fever-dream of a novel,” said competition judge Ben Fountain. “McTeer's story of a young boy's quest achieves a narrative drive and depth that are rare in any novel, much less a debut effort. Minnow picked me up by the scruff of the neck and carried me along as powerfully as a novel by Pat Conroy or Toni Morrison. Yeah, McTeer is that good. I look forward to many more novels by this excellent young writer." Set in a fictional Beaufort County in the late 19th century, McTeer’s novel “is a Lowcountry Heart of Darkness, evoking the work of Karen Russell,” said Betsy Teter, editor of Hub City Press. “We are thrilled to publish the enigmatic story of Minnow, who ventures deep into the voodoo world of the South Carolina Sea Islands in search of a cure for his father’s mysterious illness.”

The full Route1Reads program is available at

River of Words

The South Carolina Center for the Book is proud to promote the River of Words Contest to South Carolina students, in partnership with the Library of Congress and the River of Words organization.

River of Words is a free, international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of watersheds. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover.

The contest is open to any child in South Carolina (and the world!), from 5-19 years of age. Students may enter on their own or as part of a group (classroom, Scout troop, 4-H, etc.) The deadline for entries for the 2008 contest is February 15th, 2008. For more information about the contest and how to enter, please see the Web site at

For questions, please visit the River of Words website.

Let’s Talk About It

Let’s Talk About It is a reading and discussion program created by the American Library Association and offered free to South Carolina public libraries through a partnership of the South Carolina State Library and The Humanities Council SC.

Book Series

Let’s Talk About It series consist of 4-5 books or films on the same topic or theme, which participants study with the help of scholar facilitators who add depth and breadth of understanding. There are over 36 series from which to choose, ranging in theme from women’s autobiography to the importance of heritage in South Carolina literature.

Download Application


The South Carolina State Library and The Humanities Council SC provide all the materials and expertise necessary to implement a Let’s Talk About It program in a public library, including full sets of books and other media and a $500 grant to pay for scholar honorarium.