Connecticut’s 2024 Letters About Literature Contest Winners Named

UConn's Neag School of Education, Department of English, and Connecticut Writing Project, co-sponsors of the 31st annual Letters About Literature contest, are proud to announce Connecticut’s winners for the 2023-24 academic year.

Male educator gives certificate to young male student while another male educator in the background looks on.

Doug Kaufman, left, congratulates a winner from the Letters About Literature contest in 2023; Jason Courtmanche is pictured in the background. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

UConn’s Neag School of Education, Department of English, and Connecticut Writing Project (CWP), co-sponsors of the 31st annual Letters About Literature contest, are proud to announce Connecticut’s winners for the 2023-24 academic year.

Each year, students in grades four through 12 are invited to read a text, broadly defined, and write a letter to the author (living or dead) about how the text affected them personally. Submissions are grouped according to grade level (grades four to six; grades seven and eight; and grades nine to 12).

All submissions were read and scored by Neag School alumni teacher-volunteers. Of the 878 submissions from Connecticut students this year, there were 526 students who received honorable mentions. Each Letters About Literature semi-finalist and honorable mention recipient received a letter of recognition.

A second set of judges, all pre-service teachers, then read and scored the 91 semi-finalists — twice for each submission — and selected a total of nine winners, three per grade level. Then one student per grade level was named Top Prize. Each of the nine winners will receive a gift card: the three Top Prize winners get $200 each and the six others get $100 each. The winning recipients will be recognized at a ceremony later in the spring.

Neag School associate professor Doug Kaufman, CWP director Jason Courtmanche, and Department of English Ph.D. candidate Margaret McFarlane served as the contest’s representatives for the state of Connecticut.

Letters About Literature Finalists for the State of Connecticut

The following are the contest finalists, listed with their respective school’s and teacher’s names, as well as 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)

  • Top Prize Winner: Erioluwa Shokunbi, John Ferrero, Macdonough Elementary (Middletown), Gone by Michael Grant
  • Winner: Ema He, Lucinda Kulvinskas, King Phillip Middle School (West Hartford), The Wild Robot Protects by Peter Brown
  • Winner: Ria Shenoy, Ximena Franco-Bao, West Woods Upper Elementary School (Farmington), Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Level II (Grades 7-8)

  • Top Prize Winner: Emma Allen, Kristin Liu, The Country School (Madison), Instructions Before Dancing by Nicola Yoon
  • Winner: Ella Yu, Jessica Kerelejza, King Phillip Middle School (West Hartford), Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Winner: Ava Hill, Sara Tamborello, Segwick Middle School (West Hartford), The Wish by Nicholas Spark

Level III (Grades 9-12)

  • Top Prize Winner: Brian Park, Lennoz Debra, Hotchkiss School (Salisbury), Theme for English B by Langston Hughes
  • Winner: Noah Tork, Lucy Abott, Notre Dame (West Haven), Night by Ellie Wiesel
  • Winner: Emerson Smith, Katherine Gabbay, Ridgefield High School (Ridgefield), The Virgin Suicides by Jefrey Eugenides

Letters About Literature Contest Judges

Alumni, students, and friends of the Neag School of Education and the University of Connecticut judged the Letters About Literature contest submissions this past fall. The judges selected semi-finalists at each of the three competition levels. Thank you to the first-round contest judges:

  • Sarah Abbey
  • Lea Attanasio
  • Leah Baranauskas
  • Sian Charles-Harris
  • Kayla Cole
  • Celina DaSilva
  • Caitlin Davidson
  • Mirelinda Dema
  • Kristina Dukette
  • Hayley Gomez
  • Migdalia Gonsalves
  • Denise Grant
  • Katie Grant
  • Jill Kneisl
  • Lindsay Larsen
  • Lindsey Le-Gervais
  • Laura Milligan
  • Melissa Oberlander
  • Katie Owens
  • Alex Andy Phuong
  • Jamie Pisacane
  • Christy Rybczyk
  • Jaclyn Sanzari
  • Allison Stroili
  • Robert Zupperoli

Students in the Neag School and Department of English judged the 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:

  • Grace Carpenter
  • Nhi Dao
  • Mckenzie Dayton
  • Laney Dunn
  • Amanda Faubel
  • Emily Feest
  • Chloe Goodi
  • Vashonti Mac
  • Riley Mark
  • Brenna McNeec
  • Evelyn Mcname
  • Georgia Mills Rent
  • Molly Morga
  • Thomas Murray
  • Sofia Oyola Morale
  • Shannon Palme
  • Lillian Sol
  • Grian Wizne
  • Anna Wu