Story Table Essay Contest

In Planet Word’s magical Library, books come to life before your eyes, many of them individually described by someone with deep knowledge of and close personal connection to the text. Planet Word is working to expand our collection of books and is seeking youth input and representation in the form of a youth essay contest.


Your Voice at Planet Word

Planet Word would like to hear from the young people of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia): Which new book should we add to our magical Library? Two winning books, advocated for by young people, will be added to the Story Table interactive in Planet Word’s Schwarzman Family Library. Winning essay writers will be invited to help record the audio interview that forms the basis of the interactive experience in the Museum. Winners’ choices and voices will be permanently included in the display at Planet Word, one of Washington, D.C.’s most exciting new museums!

Essayists are asked to answer these questions:

  • What often overlooked book has had an impact on your life?
  • Why is that book important to you, and why should more people read it?


Planet Word will accept essays between October 1st and November 8th, 2022. Winners will be announced in mid-December 2022. Read the full announcement for contest rules, procedures, and selection process.

Good news! We’re expanding the eligibility criteria for our youth essay contest to include all middle school and high school students in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. To accommodate newly eligible students who would like to participate, we are now accepting essays through November 8th, 2022.

Read the announcement

Download contest flyer

View 2022 contest winners


Watch Books Come to Life

Additional Information

  • Planet Word is accepting essays from young people in the DMV in two age-group categories: students in grades 5-8 and 9-12. Several finalists and one winner will be chosen from each category.
  • Successful essays will reflect the boundless power of words and reading in the lives of young people, reveal heartfelt representation of the impact of their chosen book, and demonstrate high levels of writing skill.
  • Essayists are strongly encouraged to review the list of books and poems already featured in Planet Word’s Library as the winning essays must advocate for a book/author not already featured. Essayists are additionally encouraged to focus their writings on books that are often overlooked. The books must be professionally published.
  • Essays must be 500 words or less in length, be original student work, and pass a plagiarism test.

Planet Word will accept essays from students residing in or attending school in the DMV. DMV is defined as D.C., the state of Maryland, and the state of Virginia.

  • An internal Planet Word team will select finalist essays from each grade-based category (grades 5-8 and 9-12). An author special guest will select one winner from each age-group category.
  • The finalists may be invited to present at a public program at Planet Word, and finalists’ essays will be featured on Planet Word’s website.
  • One classroom from each winner’s school or homeschool co-op will be offered a free trip to Planet Word in the spring of 2023. Transportation is not included.
  • Each of the two winning books will be added to the Story Table exhibit in Planet Word’s Schwarzman Family Library. The winners will also be invited to participate in the recording process for the audio/visual presentation associated with their book. Winners’ voices will be permanently included in the display at Planet Word, one of Washington, D.C.’s most exciting new museums!
  • Participants must submit their essay on Planet Word’s website.
  • Participants must upload the original content of their essay in a .doc or .docx file via the submission form.
  • Participants must upload the consent form signed by themselves and their parent or legal guardian (if under the age of 18) in a .pdf file via the submission form.

Submission Form

Submit your essay

Submissions are now closed. Winners will be announced and notified in mid-December 2022.