In honor of Black History Month, a month dedicated to Black excellence and perseverance, young people in Cuyahoga County are invited to embrace BLACK: Books Lifting All Communities through Knowledge, with our second annual Future Leaders are Readers Essay Challenge.

Essay Challenge 2

Essay guidelines and prizes vary by age.
• For youth ages 8-12, write a 250-word essay to enter to win a $75 Visa card.
• For youth ages 13-18, write a 500-word essay to enter to win a $175 Visa card.
• For adults ages 19-30, write a 1,000-word essay to enter to win a $250 Visa card.

Here’s how it works:

1. Read a book by a Black author in the month of February. Our friends at Cleveland Public Library have lots of suggestions for both young readers and youth/young adults.
2. Write an essay reflecting on the following questions:

• What made you choose this book?
• What connection(s) do you see between the book and your own life?
• How does the book connect to your community and its future?

3. Submit your essay online by March 3, 2017 at 5 p.m. You can drop-off or mail your entry to Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Attn: Leaders are Readers, 5246 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44127 or by email to with the subject line: Leaders are Readers. However you submit, please attach the contest cover sheet.

Only one entry per person please. Prizes will be awarded at the 4th annual Youth Solutions Congress on March 25th at Cleveland State University.

Download the contest guidelines.

Why it matters: According to the Center of Urban Poverty and Community Development, 44% of Cuyahoga County residents 16 and older lack Level 3 literacy skills—the standard for success in the 21st Century. In Cleveland, 65% of the population has Level 2 or below literacy skills. There have never before been so many great choices of books by African-American authors, as highlighted by the American Library Association Newbery Medal committee, which honored Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson for their contributions to youth literature.