Connecticut’s 2021 Letters About Literature Contest Winners Named

The Neag School of Education, UConn’s Department of English, and the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP), co-sponsors of the 28th annual Letters About Literature contest, are proud to announce Connecticut’s winners for the 2020-21 academic year.

Each year, students in Grades 4 through 12 are invited to read a book, poem, or speech and write a letter to that author (living or dead) about how the text affected them personally. Of the 645 submissions from Connecticut students this year, 96 semi-finalists have been named. Each Letters About Literature semifinalist received a letter of recognition. Contest judges then selected a total of 10 submissions state finalists from the contest’s three categories (Grades 4-6, Grades 7-8, and Grades 9-12) as finalists, each of whom will receive a gift card.UConn Letters About Literature logo with partners listed: Connecticut Writing Project | English Department | Neag School of Education

Neag School Professor Doug Kaufman, CWP Director Jason Courtmanche, and Department of English Ph.D. candidate Kiedra Taylor served as the contest’s representatives for the state of Connecticut. Read more about the contest, and read the winning essays below.

Congratulations to the Letters About Literature finalists for the state of Connecticut

Listed below are the finalists with their school and teacher’s name, and the work of literature that is the focus of their essay, with access to their winning submissions in PDF format.

Level I (Grades 4-6)

  • First Place: Amelia Athay, Essex Elementary School, Heather Skaanning, The Trials of Apollo Series by Rick Riordan
  • Honorable Mention: Malena Abadia, Charter Oak International Academy, Michele Hadlock, Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
  • Honorable Mention: Jake Chaletsky, King Philip Middle School, Lucinda Kulvinskas, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Level II (Grades 7-8)

  • First Place: Wendy Guo, Mansfield Middle School, Annie Perkins, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Honorable Mention: Amani Snellings, King Philip Middle School, Carissa Teff (Sedgewick Middle School), Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhoades
  • Honorable Mention: Dominic Jenkins, Sage Park Middle School, Kim McGee, Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Level III (Grades 9-12)

  • First Place: Maxie Soja, Griswold High School, Nadine Keane, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Honorable Mention: Jane Prusko, Ridgefield High School, Katherine Gabbay, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
  • Honorable Mention: Kuniya Asobayire, Hillhouse High School, Kevin Barbero, “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth
  • Honorable Mention: Erin Mutchek, South Windsor High School, Danielle Pieratti, Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

Jason Courtmanche, co-chair of Connecticut’s Letters About Literature Contest, gives remarks for the 2021 contest.

First-place winner in Level I, Amelia Athay from Essex (Conn.) Elementary School, reads her essay “The Trials of Apollo Series” by Rick Riordan.

First place winner in Level II, Wendy Guo from Mansfield (Conn.) Middle School, reads her essay “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

Maxie Soja from Griswold (Conn.) High School, who earned first place in Connecticut’s  2021 Letters About Literature Contest for Level III, reads her essay on “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Letters About Literature Contest Judges

Alumni, students, and friends from the Neag School of Education and the University of Connecticut judged the Letters About Literature contest submittals this past fall. The judges selected semi-finalists at each of the three competition levels (grades 4-5, 7-8, and 9-12). Thank you to the first-round contest judges:

  • Mary Jane Bezares
  • Sian Charles-Harris
  • Jane Cook
  • Jennifer DeRagon
  • Victoria Fielding
  • Marita Gereg
  • Lindsey Gervais
  • Denise Grant
  • Emily Griffin
  • Yohei Igarashi
  • Alice Armour Jones
  • Catherine Kotula
  • Lindsay Larsen
  • Shawn Lucas
  • Rachel Lynch
  • Maria McKeon
  • Melissa Oberlander
  • Katelyn Owens
  • Cynthia Romero
  • Eden Stein
  • Kiedra Taylor
  • Samantha vanValkenburg
  • Tracy Waring

Students in the Neag School and Department of English judged the 96 Letters About Literature semifinalist essays this past month. Thank you to the contest judges, who are current students in the Neag School of Education Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s program with a second major or concentration in English or UConn students majoring in English:

  • Kyra Arena
  • Grace Cartwright
  • Caroline Crean
  • Jay DePalermo
  • Maisie Festa
  • Michael Flaherty
  • Ailis Frost
  • Calista Giroux
  • Taylor Guasta
  • Kate Hynes
  • Julianna Iacovelli
  • Maiena Kheyabani
  • Lucas Knight-Vezina
  • Kaitlyn Lent
  • Alex Mika
  • Aarushi Nohria
  • Daira Rivera
  • Justin Rogers
  • Marisa Santopietro
  • Julie Sedensky
  • Rowan Sono-Apuero

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