Budding Brontes: Contest lures little literati

When my younger son was in first and second grades, he would ask me to help him write a letter to one or another of his friends at school.
So we would sit down together, and he would dictate a delightful little story about an adventure with our cat or a dream he had in which he conquered some nasty monster who lived under his bed. He’d illustrate it with a drawing or two, then we’d seal it up in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and send it off in the real mail, even though he could have handed it to his friend at school.
WHTJ Charlottesville PBS is giving local kids the chance to put their stories in writing and send them in the “real” mail as entries in the Reading Rainbow Ninth Annual Young Writers and Illustrators Contest. Aspiring literary artists in kindergarten through third grades can take their stab at fame, if not fortune, by sending an original story of up to 200 words for kindergarten and first graders, 350 words for second and third, along with at least five colorful illustrations. 
“It’s incredible what the kids come up with,” says Cindy Heckler, communications specialist at WHTJ, describing last year’s entries. “They’re so creative.”
Madeline Hermsmeier, for example, won the prize for second-grade with her fairy tale, Thumbfrog, about a “tiny frog no bigger than a thumb” who ends up marrying the prince. In her third-grade winning entry, Alex Howerton revealed the truth behind Why Whales Have Blow Holes. Seems it’s the result of an unfortunate incident while Whale was playing tag with Seal.
“Our local judges have the hardest time choosing the winners,” Heckler adds.
The panel of judges, made up of area teachers, authors, and folks who work with children, will select first-, second-, and third-place winners for each grade level. First-place winners have their entries entered in the national contest, and may have their stories posted on the national Website.
All participants (and all their friends and family) get to come to the contest celebration that takes place March 22 at the Jefferson Theater as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book festivities.
Unfortunately, my son is too old now to get in on this contest. Too bad, because it’s a great way to affirm our kids’ imaginative genius.

Deadline for entry is March 1. Entry forms and contest guidelines are available at www.ideastations.org or by calling Cathy Fox at 295-7256.