Library’s young author/illustrator contest returns for 33rd year

BELLEFONTE — Calling first through sixth graders who love to write and draw: Centre County Library has a great opportunity for you!

This year marks the return of the library’s annual Young Author and Illustrator Contest, and entries are being accepted now through April 9 at any Centre County Library location. Any student in Centre County, including home-schoolers, in grades one through six, is eligible to enter the contest and submit a story of their own creation.

“We want this program to be inclusive and to appeal to all different interests, so we accept both fiction and non-fiction as well as graphic novels and stories with no illustrations at all,” explained Laura Sarge, youth programming and outreach librarian at the Centre County Library’s Bellefonte location. “The stories are only judged against others in the same grade to even the playing field, and our community judges are always amazed with how creative our community children are.”

Winners will be notified by mail and phone prior to the contest’s awards ceremony, which will be held on May 2 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Bellefonte Area High School auditorium. Stories that win first place will be bound into a hardback book that will have permanent recognition in the Centre County Library and be available for purchase to the winner’s family.

All entrants and their friends and families are invited to attend the award and participation ceremony, where three winners and two honorable mentions will be recognized and judges will read excerpts from the winning stories.

At the awards ceremony, there is always a local guest author. This year’s guest will be Abby Rupert Baus, who is also a local sixth grade teacher. Baus has most recently written “Violet & Beaumont,” a children’s book about a pony and a butterfly who are best friends.

The contest always proves to be a great way for students to explore and express their creativity.

“Children’s lives are quite structured these days; so much is decided for them and there isn’t always time for them to explore their own interests,” Sarge said. “A program like this allows children complete creative freedom in a framework that aligns educational expectation (the act of writing a story calls on what they have learned about story structure and character development, as well as spelling, grammar, and typing skills).”

To judge the entries, Sarge said a group of judges, some of which are retired teachers, local government officials, library board members, and loyal library patrons, form a judges workshop, which will be held on April 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the library’s Bellefonte location. There will be two judges for each grade’s entries, and judges talk to one another about the stories that leave the biggest impression upon them.

“I love watching the community judges read the stories,” Sarge said. “I watch their reactions, and ask them to share when I notice something made them laugh or tears up. In those moments, I am seeing how a child’s creation has an effect on adults, and it’s pretty amazing.”

For contest guidelines, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and story structure are important, but Sarge said it is typically the themes portrayed and the style of the stories that have the greatest impact upon the judges. Another important guideline is that stories should not use licensed characters, which Sarge said can be a challenge for children who want to incorporate pop culture into their stories.

“We do get a lot of stories in, so please don’t be discouraged if you do not place, keep writing and try again next year,” Sarge said. “We can’t wait to read what you have to say.”

Official guidelines and rules for the contest are available at any Centre County Library branch and online at www.centrecountylibrary.org. Anyone interested in becoming a judge for this year’s contest can contact Laura Sarge at lsarge@centrecountylibrary.org within the next few weeks.

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