Sharpen your pencils and gather your markers! It’s time for PBS KIDS Writers Contest

Little kids with imaginative storytelling skills and graphic art talent are invited to WQED’s annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest.

All kids love picture books with entertaining stories. In this contest, kids write an original story and produce at least five corresponding illustrations, which can include drawings, collages, photographs, or other media.

The concept has proved to be a popular one: Over the past 11 years, the contest has received more than 12,000 story entries from kids in grades K-5.

The idea behind the effort is to promote children’s literacy skills through hands-on activities. There are lots of resources on the WQED website to help kids brainstorm, draft and illustrate their stories. Download cool activity sheets and graphic organizers for extra learning fun.

View last year’s winning stories, narrated by the author/illustrators. Enjoy reading them with your kids to find inspiration and share a few giggles.

Among the contest rules are specific word counts for various grade levels. Judging is calculated by 40 percent for the originality of plot, 40 percent for story structure, and 20 percent for relevance and quality of the illustration.

The deadline is March 31. But win or lose, the joy and pride kids find in the creation process is well worth the effort.