Common Reading Student Essay Contest
Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Common Reading Student Essay Contest. Please share these guidelines with students and encourage them to enter. Entries should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and are being accepted now through April 1. The winner will receive $350 towards Shepherd University tuition or the purchase of an education-related device or tech gadget. Entries are judged by a panel of three faculty members using a rubric developed by the English Department. Essays written for a specific class or other assignment are acceptable.
Breaking Night: Common Reading Essay Contest Prompts
Choose one of the following three prompts:
- Throughout the text, the institutions (and the people associated with them) that are supposed to help children like Liz (and their families) often fail her. But that isn’t always the case. Write an essay in which you make an argument about what this book suggests about why some of the institutions/social services failed Liz and/or her family and others succeeded. Think about and discuss what larger comment the book might be making about these institutions (and the people who work for them) in our country.
- Breaking Night makes it clear that family and friends can be both a burden and a source of strength and/or comfort. Pick one relationship to focus on and make an argument about how it serves those contradictory roles in Liz’s life. You might chose to focus on just one family member (i.e., her father, Carlos) or one symbol of that paradox (i.e., her mom’s NA coin, her mother’s picture). What does Liz ultimately learn from those contradictions that helps her reconcile them and move forward?
- If you were to describe Liz Murray in one word, it might be resilient—able to persist in the face of adversity and challenges. Write an essay in which you make an argument about what Liz can teach a college student about resilience.
A winning entry does/has the following elements:
- A clear and coherent thesis statement/main idea that appears in the first paragraph and clearly relates to the prompt you have selected. A reader should be able to easily identify this sentence and say “THIS is what this paper is about.” A good response is not a summary of the text.
- Textual evidence to support each point and move your argument along. Every claim you make should be supported with evidence from the text. Make sure this evidence is integrated into your overall argument. Do not simply drop in quotations without any analysis (explaining how they advance your main idea). Avoid quoting extremely long passages, especially without analysis.
- Properly formatted citations. You may use whatever citation style is appropriate (MLA, APA, etc.), but be sure to be consistent and accurate in your format.
- A coherent, clear structure. Each paragraph should:
- Move the argument or main idea along.
- Have a strong topic sentence.
- Move to the next section with clear transitions.
- A conclusion. Your piece should have some sort of conclusion that wraps things up, even if all you do is raise more questions.
- Proper formatting. This includes:
- A title for your essay.
- Typed; double-spaced; in a reasonable font (Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 11 pt.); one-inch margins all around; stapled; your name, the course title (if applicable), the instructor’s name (if applicable), and the date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page; page numbers should appear on the upper right-hand corner of each page.
- No spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- Appropriate length: About 600-750 words (at least 2 full pages).
Congratulations to Shepherd freshman, Linnea Meyer, whose essay submission was selected as the winner of the 2016-2017 Common Reading Student Essay Contest. Click here for photos and the full press release. Special thanks to our judges: Dr. Heidi Dobish, Dr. Heidi Hanrahan, and Dr. Timothy Nixon.