Category Archives: CSK Award Announcements

A Shared Vision: 2020 CSK, Newbery & Caldecott Award Winners

For over five decades, the Coretta Scott King Book Award has provided a platform for showcasing the talents of numerous authors and illustrators. Historically speaking, the CSK Award has recognized African American authors and illustrators where no such distinction existed before.   CSK awardees are literary luminaries who have successfully brought African American children’s literature out of the shadows, thus providing much-needed diversity in children’s literature.

The announcement of the ALA 2020 Youth Media Awards marked an unprecedented milestone. For the first time in the history of children’s literature awards, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards as well as the Newbery and Caldecott Medals chose the same winning books:  The Undefeated (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson won both the CSK Illustrator Award and the Caldecott Medal.  Additionally, the New Kid (Harper) written and illustrated by Jerry Craft won the CSK Author Award and the Newbery Medal. An examination of the Newbery and Caldecott selections over time and their consideration of African American awardees yields some interesting insights.  

Established in 1922, the Newbery Medal is the oldest children’s literature award.  In 1975, Virginia Hamilton became the first African American author to win the Newbery Medal for her M. C. Higgins, the Great (Macmillan). Two African American authors followed:  Mildred D. Taylor for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial) in 1977 and Kwame Alexander for The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) in 2015. In addition, some twenty-six African American authors have been recognized with Newbery Honor Awards.  Yet, the Newbery has chosen the same book as the CSK Book Awards jury only one other time.  This occurred in 2000 for Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte)  by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Since 1937, the Randolph Caldecott Medal has annually recognized the most distinguished American picture book for children and is awarded to an illustrator. The first Caldecott Medal awarded to an African American occurred in 1976 and went to Leo and Diane Dillon, an interracial couple, for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (Dial) written by Verna Aardema. The Dillons won a second medal in 1977 for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Dial) written by Margaret MusgroveIn 2010, Jerry Pinkney became the first solo African American illustrator to win a Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse (Little, Brown and Company)At present, some thirty African American illustrators have been awarded Caldecott Honors. However, the only other time an illustrator won both the CSK Award and Caldecott Medal was in 2017 when Javaka Steptoe received both for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquitat (Little, Brown and Company). 

These prize-winning books have continued to influence reading choices and inspire young readers. And while the CSK, Newberry and Caldecott  have long served as guides to those seeking the best in children’s literature, it’s rare that the juries of these prestigious book awards have shared the same vision.   Bravo to new directions! 


Carolyn L. Garnes served as CSK Book Awards Chair from 1993 to 1997.

CSK Book Donation Grant Spotlight: NIA Community Services Network

Image credit: Sandra Herrera

Every year the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant is awarded to deserving institutions working with children. Winners receive a collection of sixty to one hundred titles submitted for consideration for the CSK Book Author, Illustrator and Honor Awards. One of the 2019 recipients was NIA Community Services Network, Inc., a not-for-profit community service organization in Brooklyn, New York.  I exchanged emails with Sarah Harlow, Director of Education, and Elaysel German, Literacy Manger, who let me know how things are going.

Keary Bramwell: Can you tell me a little about what you have done with the CSK Book Donation grant?

Sarah Harlow: The Coretta Scott King Book Donation Grant has allowed for the NIA at Public School 627 Brighter Choice Community School to create a lending library for all students and school community members. 

The lending library is housed in the special initiatives office within Bright Choice Community School. This space is designed for students to feel safe and comfortable enough to read independently and browse the book selection at their leisure. We have added comfortable seating (such as bean bag chairs) and artwork that promotes reading to make the space fun and inviting for kids. 

Students can also use the space for other literacy-related activities. This includes creative writing, drawing, and completing puzzles, as well as reflective and self-calming activities such as mediation. Students are welcome to visit during day school hours as well as after school. The lending library space is a welcoming place that encourages literacy exploration and we are so pleased to have it full of books that reflect our students. This is a safe space where students find social emotional support, self-affirmation, and encouragement. 

Image credit: Sandra Herrera

In addition to building our lending library, NIA has begun to integrate American Library Association (ALA) books into our literacy instruction during the after school hours. The after school literacy model is an interactive read aloud followed by a STEAM based project that students lead and complete. Students are always encouraged to revisit the books at our library space. We are so thankful to the CSK Awards Committee for their support of our students!

KB: What advice would you give to organizations applying for the grant?

Elaysel German: Our advice is to partner with the school leadership (stakeholders). We are a community-based organization that works closely with schools, and we recognize that the people in schools every day have the best insight into our students’ needs and wants. 

We worked as a team on submitting the proposal to ALA. The support and information we received from the day school leadership was invaluable. We also recommend that those seeking to apply really listen to the students and families they serve, to see how this grant will benefit them specifically. Get creative and think big about the possibilities that come from this opportunity.

KB: What sort of impact has the grant made on your organization?

EG: At NIA, we have always valued the impact books have on a person’s self-perception and world perspective. This grant has motivated us to be more intentional about what types of books we are recommending to our 40+ school sites. This meant that we are deep-diving into recommended book lists through research and book talks with educators. 

We believe our intentionality about curating book lists that offer windows, mirrors, bridges and sliding glass doors to our students, will have a deep and lasting impact on their development. As an organization, we are beginning to fuse the link between social emotional learning and literacy. Stories connect us, help us process, strengthen our empathy and compassion, build our own self-confidence and give us greater insight. Access to rich, diverse texts that are reflective of a broad range of experiences are crucial in helping students feel connected to books and to the human experience.  

KB: What sort of impact has the grant made on your students?

EG: Our students at Brighter Choice are deepening their love of literacy. We have been able to create a welcoming, safe and shared after school library space that gets students excited about reading. In addition, because the after school library is open until 6 p.m., students have access to books at all hours of the extended school day. They are seeing themselves in fantastical, realistic and new ways through these stories. They are also seeing new characters and stories from different worlds that were not previously available. 

Image credit: Sandra Herrera

KB: Do your students have any favorite titles?

EG: So far, Black Panther: Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith is our most requested title.

Other popular titles include:  

  • Mirror, Mirror by Barbara J. Freeman 
  • Leah is Seen by Claudette Esmerelda 
  • Puddinhead’s Sister, Zirah by Mariyln Foote
  • Benny Becomes an Architect by David C. Hughes 
  • Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann 

SH: We held a special book party where students got to look at all the new books, read together, and celebrate this amazing opportunity. The students’ excitement was so amazing to see!

EG: We also discovered an amazing connection because we found out that one of the children is related to the illustrator of Let the Children March. During the book party, he proudly came up and told us that his uncle was the illustrator.

Image credit: Sandra Herrera

The application portal for the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Donation Grant is now open. The deadline to apply is Friday, January 31, 2020. Visit this link to learn more. 


Keary Bramwell is a member of the CSK Technology Committee and children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. 

Meet the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant Recipients

Students in PS 627 and NIA Community Services Network’s after-school program explore their new books. Photo credit: Elaysel German

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards engage communities in multiple opportunities to increase the love of literacy in our youth, including the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant. Every year, the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association receives approximately 60-100 books for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards jury to review, including a full set of that year’s Coretta Scott King Award winning and honor book titles. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant brings these books into the lives of children and their communities. When an organization is selected as a grant winner, it is sent the books EMIERT collected and these books are used to support innovative projects that foster community connections, build reading opportunities, and increase children’s access to quality materials.

The 2019 recipients of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grants have been announced! Please read below to learn more about the ways this year’s grant recipients are connecting communities through innovative literacy- and youth-centered projects.  

Kane County Juvenile Justice Center: Saint Charles, IL
The Kane County Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) has a library run by volunteers who believe reading adds “immeasurable value to young lives.” Library materials are open and available to all people living in the Center for checkout, and the library works to support patrons as they develop a passion for reading. The books received from the grant will be featured in a special collection area celebrating the Coretta Scott King Book Awards.

Main Street Academy: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Main Street Academy (MSA) is an alternative school serving young people in grades 6-12, with a newly renovated media center that is open daily for the community. The books acquired from the grant will support the media center’s print collection, and staff will continue to nurture a culture of reading and learning through face-out displays, book talks, book clubs, and by promoting community-wide enrichment programs that connect learners inside and outside the school’s walls.

NIA Community Services Network: Brooklyn, NY
NIA Community Services Network, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “building strong children, strong families, and strong communities.” Through a collaboration with PS 627 Brighter Choice Community School, the books acquired from the grant will be used to support an after-school program that supports students as they develop a love of reading through culturally relevant literature activities. The books will also be available to students throughout the school day.To learn more about the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant and how to apply for a grant in 2020, visit To learn more about the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, visit

Elisa Gall & Marguerite Penick-Parks are Chair and member of the CSK Book Awards Donation Grant Committee, respectively.

A Great Day for CSK!

On Monday, February 12, in Denver, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, rose from her seat at the dais to announce the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The crowd erupted as the following awards were announced:

The Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Eloise Greenfield

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent: David Barclay Moore for The Stars Beneath Our Feet (Alfred A. Knopf)

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Illustrator Award for New Talent: Charly Palmer for Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman, illustrated by James E. Ransome and written by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Holiday House)

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, illustrated by Euka Holmes, written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth (Candlewick)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Long Way Down, written by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: The Hate U Give, written by Angela Thomas (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Coretta Scott King Author Award: Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books)

In addition, CSK Award-winning author Angela Johnson was the recipient of the YALSA 2018 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens

CSK Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson received the ALSC 2018 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award which honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children

credit: Cathy Potter

Many thanks to the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury: Kacie Armstrong, Jessica Anne Bratt, LaKeshia Darden, Dr. Sujin Bernadette Huggins, Erica Marks, Martha Parravano, and Sam Bloom (Chair)

credit: Sam Bloom

Many thanks to the CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Award Jury: Therese G. Bigelow, Patricia Ann Carleton, Dr. Rosalie B. Kiah (not pictured), Ida W. Thompson, and Deborah Denise Taylor (Chair)

Post by Susan Polos

Susan Polos works as a school librarian in Bedford, NY.  She is Chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.

The 48th Annual Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast

This year’s Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast, held early Sunday morning, June 25th, in Chicago at the Hilton, sold out twice! Everyone was excited to celebrate the 2017 CSK winning authors and illustrators, the winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent, and the recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Dr. Pauletta Bracy, Chair of the Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee,  provided a welcome, Pastor Kimberly Ray of Angie Ray Ministries delivered the invocation, and ALA president Dr. Julie Todaro spoke. Breakfast was served.

Then the awards were presented. Nicola Yoon was awarded the  John Steptoe Award for New Talent for The Sun Is Also a Star (Delacorte Press).

Coretta Scott Illustration Honors were awarded to R. Gregory Christie for Freedom in Congo Square (author Carole Boston Weatherford, Little Bee Books); Jerry Pinkney for In Plain Sight (author Richard Jackson, Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press); and Ashley Bryan for Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (author Ashley Bryan, Atheneum).

Ashley Bryan was also awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (illustrator Ashley Bryan, Atheneum). Jason Reynolds was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for As Brave as You (Atheneum).

The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award was presented to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (author Javaka Steptoe, Little Brown). Read Javaka Steptoe’s acceptance speech here as printed in The Horn Book.

The Coretta Scott King Author winners were Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for the third volume of the March Trilogy (illustrator Nate Powell, Top Shelf). Nate Powell spoke for Andrew Aydin, who could not be present, and Congressman Lewis spoke, receiving his award. The acceptance speeches were not received in time to be published in the current edition of The Horn Book but can be viewed here.

The Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. Read Dr. Bishop’s acceptance speech here as printed in The Horn Book.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop chaired the 2017 Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee Jury. Other jury members included Kacie V. Armstrong, Sam Bloom, Erica T. Marks, April Roy, Martha V. Parravano, and Ida W. Thompson.

Posted by Susan Polos

YMA Awards, CSK, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, and Congressman John Lewis: What a day!

Anticipation ran high as the crowd began to gather at 6:00 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. American Library Association Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017, held in the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many distinguished books were published in 2016; the buzz and enthusiasm were practically palatable as one entered the rapidly filling room.   As the committees entered to sit in the reserved spaces, we got a shot of the Coretta Scott King committee settling in.  The Coretta Scott King Award jury was chaired by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, who had a great day herself.  

Before the book awards were announced, we learned that Dr. Sims Bishop was honored as the recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. After the standing ovation, CSK Awards Committee Chair Pauletta Brown Bracy had to ask Dr. Sims Bishop to stand so that the crowd could see her!

The CSK (Author) Medal was awarded to Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, who won an unprecedented number of awards for March: Book Three, including Printz, Sibert, and YALSA Nonfiction), while the CSK Andrew Aydin (Illustrator) Medal was awarded to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Steptoe also won the Caldecott Medal.

CSK  (Author) Honors were awarded to Jason Reynolds for As Brave As Me and Ashley Bryan for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Bryan also won a CSK (Illustrator) Honor for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. CSK (Illustrator) Honors were also awarded to R. Gregory Christie for Freedom in Congo Square and Jerry Pinkney for In Plain Sight.

The John Steptoe New Talent Award was given to Nicole Yoon for The Sun is Also a Star.

Post by Liz Deskins