When Westchester Day School sixth grader Maya Tratt first learned of the Library of Congress’ Letters About Literature competition, she was immediately interested. The national reading-and-writing program, open to students in fourth through twelfth grades, asks participants to write to an author, either living or deceased, about how his or her book has affected the participant’s life.
After careful thought, Maya decided that Anne Frank would be the recipient of her letter. As she wrote, “Dear Anne, You are thirteen, only two years older than I, but you are in hiding. You are thirteen, and your world is hidden behind a bookcase and a diary. You are only thirteen, yet you have endured more pain and hardship than I would ever wish upon someone in a lifetime. Yes, you are only thirteen, but little do you know, your, “musings of a thirteen year old schoolgirl,” became a symbol of hope for Jews, girls and me.”
After submitting her heartfelt piece to the competition, Maya returned to her regular routine, not thinking too much about what would come of her work. Then, while in Israel with her family for the Passover holiday, everything changed.
“Right after Yom Tov ended, I checked my voicemail and it said ‘Congratulations, you’re a winner!’” Maya says. Quickly, she checked her email, where she discovered even more exciting news: Her letter to Anne Frank had secured first place in the Level 1 (fourth through sixth grade) competition.
As a winner, Maya will be presented with a special certificate of honor at the New York State Writers Hall of Fame Induction, being held at the Princeton Club, in New York City, on Tuesday, June 5. She will also have her name listed on the Empire State Center for the book’s website, along with the other first-place winners in each age category.
In reflecting on her success in this competition, Maya has a message for other students. “If you have the possibility of trying something new, you should just go for it. You never know what might happen!”