Judging and Notification of Winners

Who judges the letters? Judges include authors, publishers, librarians and educators from all 50 states. The first two rounds of reading determine which letters advance to state-level judging. Only first place state winners advance to national judging.

What educational value does LAL have for my child/students? Research supports the link between reading and writing: children who read, write better; children who write, read more. LAL challenges students by asking that they write to a particular audience (the author of a book rather than a teacher) with a specific purpose (to explain or describe his or her personal reader response to the work). By encouraging personal reader response and reflexive writing, LAL encourages meaningful reading and helps to create successful writers.

What are the competition levels? Level I: grades 4-6; Level II: grades 7-8; Level III: grades 9-10.

My child is in third grade but reads on a higher level. Can he/she still enter? Unfortunately, no.  Official rules state that a child must be in at least grade 4 to compete. But we would certainly welcome your child’s letter next year.

Who selects the state winners? Each participating state has it own panels of state judges. However, not every letter submitted advances to state-level judging. Letters must first advance through two rounds of reading by the LAL Central judges. These include former classroom teachers and graduate students with knowledge of children’s literature and their reading-writing process.

If I have a child who wins, will that child’s name and/or letter automatically be published? Not without the signed permission of a parent or guardian. Rest assured, all children who receive a state or national prize will receive notification via U.S. mail or email, including a permission release form. The parent/guardian signs this release and returns it to the state center (not the national office). Only then are names released and possibly some letters published. If a child prefers to withhold his/her name at the time of publication, that is acceptable, but we must have complete names in order for the child to enter the contest.

When are the winners selected and notified? State winners are selected about mid-March and notified soon after. Selection of national winners occurs in April.

Who notifies the state winners and when? Each state Center for the Book notifies the winners from its state. The national office maintains communications between the state centers but does not contact each state winner. State winners can expect notification in April. National winners are announced in May.

Why does it take so long to select state and national winners? We read every letter! Just opening and logging letters takes weeks. Then come the rounds of reading. Of the more than 69,000 letters received last year, our first team of judges eliminated approximately 62,000 letters. That means that approximately 8,000 (or about 10 percent) advanced to round 3, or state-level judging. From there, a whole new team of judges reads the letters.