Category Archives: CSK 50th Anniversary

Continuing to Celebrate and Use Coretta Scott King Book Awards Titles After the 50th Anniversary

Image credit: Lauren Kratz

At the end of 2019, I went to see the Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards exhibit at the Los Angeles Public Library. I invited my friend and co-worker Daniella, who is eighteen and had never read any of the Coretta Scott King award-winning books growing up. While we were viewing the exhibit, I cheered when I saw John Steptoe’s beautiful artwork from his book Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Daniella was impressed and asked me about the story. As I explained, I remembered that I had first loved this book because of watching the television show Reading Rainbow hosted by LeVar Burton in the 1990s. I would have my lists of books prepared before trips to the library, all suggestions from the show Reading Rainbow. I then noticed that Daniella had her list of books she had written down. I asked her what that list was for, and she said, “Books that I am going to check out when we get back to the library.” 

As Daniella and I were leaving the exhibit, we paused again in front of Faith Ringgold’s magnificent Tar Beach story quilt. At that moment, I wondered to myself: As a children’s librarian, why am I not using more Coretta Scott King award-winning books in my programming throughout the year? Not just when there is the CSK 50th anniversary or African American Heritage Month, but regularly.  I decided to take action.

Inspired by my visit to see the Our Voice exhibit, the first CSK Book Award inspired program that I created for my library for 2020 was a quilt-inspired placemat. For this all-ages activity, we read Tar Beach aloud and projected a life-size image of Ms. Ringgold’s story quilt. We talked about what a quilt is and how each one tells a story. Many children shared that they had quilts at home from someone in their family. Then the children created their placemats by gluing different paper shapes and we laminated them.

Image credit: Lauren Kratz
Image credit: Lauren Kratz

During the program, I also projected CSK award-winning illustrated book, The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, onto a screen. We had copies of Tar Beach, The Patchwork Quilt and The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubinon on hand and available for check out for project inspiration. The children could not wait to share the stories behind their quilt inspired placemats.

My next CSK Award related program will be a children’s book club where we will discuss recent CSK Author Honor winner Kwame Mbalia’s middle grade fantasy, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Throughout the year and in the future, I will continue to find ways to promote Coretta Scott King Award-winning books through library programming, outreach, and displays as well as with my colleagues and other educators.

You can check the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) website for further information about when the Our Voice exhibit may be traveling to you. Once public health circumstances permit and if you have the chance, please don’t miss seeing this beautiful exhibit in person. There is also a link to request more information about bringing the exhibit to your venue.


Lauren Kratz is a member of the CSK Technology Committee, the CSK Awards Book Donation Grant Standing Committee, and a children’s librarian at Los Angeles Public Library. 

A Night of Enchantment

Alan R. Bailey

I had been excited about the Coretta Scott King Book Awards 50th Anniversary Gala since the day it was announced, but my stomach was filled with so many butterflies on Friday, June 21st, I thought they would lift me off the ground and out of Washington, DC. Waiting for the doors of the celebration to officially open at 6:30 p.m. was truly getting the best of me. These were not butterflies associated with anxiety, fear, doubt, or uncertainty, however, but butterflies of joy and anticipation. It reminded me of how I felt around Christmas Eve as a young child.

As I walked towards the carriage house entrance, I noticed a luxurious black car parked near the entrance. When I heard the car door close and people began to chatter, I looked over my shoulder out of curiosity and saw Dr. Carla Hayden, looking radiant in a black and fuchsia dress, standing next to the car. She smiled warmly as our eyes met, and I must admit I blushed. A minute later, while I was still in awe from seeing Dr. Hayden, Ashley Bryan was escorted by me and into the building. At that very moment, I knew June 21, 2019, would be an enchanting night.

When I entered the great hall, I was temporarily immobilized by the majestic staircases, floors, arches, lighting, dome, and more. Everything in sight, including the beautiful people surrounding me, was magnificent. Although I have been a librarian for more than 35 years and visited DC more times than I can count, I am a bit embarrassed to say I had not visited the Library of Congress. Of course, I expected it to be majestic, but what I saw and felt surpassed everything I had imagined – I felt as if I had taken a step back in time.  

Photo credit: Susan Polos

Seven o’clock was rapidly approaching, so everyone was ushered quickly to Coolidge Auditorium, where the gala took place. As I entered the auditorium, I immediately knew I was amongst my true tribe. Authors, illustrators, librarians, and many others sharing a common thread – an admiration for books for and about African American children, especially those with seals representing the Coretta Scott King Book Award on their covers. Saying the auditorium was filled with the crème de la crème is an understatement. As I walked down the aisle, James and Lesa Cline Ransome were in front of me, Christopher Myers was standing on my left, and George Ford was engaged in a lively conversation on my right. Adrenalin pumped vigorously as I finally took my seat. I glanced around before opening my program and saw amazing individuals like Kadir Nelson, Kekla Magoon, Jerry Pinkney, R. Gregory Christie, Sharon Flake, and Jason Reynolds. And, remember, this was before the event officially began.

As the lights dimmed and the eloquent voice of Andrea Davis Pinkney came over the microphone, the night of nights began, and, oh, what a night it was. The program included a heartfelt welcome from Dr. Carla Hayden, the spectacular voice of Jewell Booker, the presentation of the astonishing commemorative painting of Mrs. Coretta Scott King by Kadir Nelson, poetry written especially for this 50th Celebration delivered by Kwame Alexander and accompanied by guitarist Randy Preston, and inspirational remarks by Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. What a powerful lineup. And to close the program, “Dream for Tomorrow,” a piece choreographed by Dobbin Pinkney, and performed by Dobbin and a troupe of gifted dancers. And yes, Dobbin is a member of the amazing Pinkney family – a family that will never stop astonishing us with their talents!

Photo credit: Susan Polos

The gala concluded with a reception filled with food, champagne, and lively conversation. Unity and love radiated throughout the great hall. Love for both children’s literature and for humanity – how could you not feel its presence? I proudly rode that wave of unity and love as I greeted and chatted with Rita Williams Garcia, Angie Thomas, Sharon Draper, Ekua Holmes, and the legendary Eloise Greenfield. In addition to some of the world’s greatest children’s authors and illustrators, I had the pleasure of seeing Fran Ware (Chair of the CSK Book Awards Committee when I joined the committee in 2005), Dr. Carole McCollough (Chair of my first CSK jury), and Satia Orange (former Director of OLOS). My heart swelled with joy as I conversed with these three amazing women who influenced me over the past 15 years more than they can ever imagine.

When the gala ended, I exchanged warm goodbyes, descended one of the majestic stairwells, called for a car, and returned to my hotel room with intentions to shower and go directly to bed. Showering was easy but going to bed was more difficult than I imagined. Although I was exhausted, memories of the spectacular evening flooded my mind in waves too strong to allow me to retire for the evening. For me, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards 50th Anniversary Gala was a moving, almost spiritual, event of a lifetime. Undoubtedly, a night of enchantment.

Alan R. Bailey is the 2019-2021 Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, He is a Professor at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.

Time to Pass the Gavel: Coretta Scott King Book Awards Chair Dr. McLinn’s Message to the CSK Community at ALA Annual

Dr. Claudette McLinn

It is with a great sense of gratitude and satisfaction that I write my final message as Chair of Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee/Community during the 50thAnniversary of the CSK Book Awards founding. 

As of June 26, 2019, the end of the Annual Conference, my esteemed colleague Alan Bailey will assume the role of Chair, and I cannot think of anyone more qualified and prepared to serve as your 2019-2021 Chair. Indeed, all the CSK Executive Board members with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve, as well as the incoming members, are eminently qualified to help lead the committee into the future. My thanks and best wishes also go out to those CSK Standing Committee members and CSK 50thAnniversary Planning Committee members whose terms will be completed at the end of this month and who have served with diligence, enthusiasm, and commitment. 

As I transition to the role of Immediate Past-Chair, I am truly humbled and honored to join such an outstanding group of individuals who have served CSK in this role. As I look back over the past two years, I am immensely proud of all that our committee has accomplished during that time, especially during the CSK 50thAnniversary celebration. 

For now, suffice it is to say that our CSK committee members, ODLOS staff, ALA supporters and leaders have done an outstanding job of moving the committee forward despite numerous challenges. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Finally, I would simply like to say “Thank you!” to every CSK Committee member for allowing me the privilege of serving as your Chair over this past two years. It is an experience I will never forget and which I will treasure for the rest of my life. You, the members, are the reason our committee exists and the reason why we as leaders do what we do. I hope you will keep fighting the good fight and never forget that your skills are crucial to the safety, health, and well-being of countless librarians, library workers, authors and illustrators, parents, and students across this country. That is something we can ALL be proud of! 

Thank you, and onward and upward! 

Dr. Claudette S. McLinn   Chair, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, 2017 – 2019 Chair, Coretta Scott King Book Awards 50thAnniversary Planning Committee, 2016 – 2019 #CSK50

This is the message delivered by Dr. Claudette McLinn, outgoing Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, at the 2019 ALA Annual’s CSK Membership Meeting on June 26.

#CSK 50 Celebration: Takoma Park Maryland Library and Politics & Prose

Photo credit: Maurice Belanger

On Tuesday, April 30, the Takoma Park Maryland Library and Politics & Prose hosted a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and it truly was a conversation for the ages. Skillfully led by moderator Deborah D. Taylor, our two presenters, legendary poet Eloise Greenfield and best-selling author Jason Reynolds, talked about how and why they write for children, their mutual love of the “musicality” of language, and the importance for all young readers to see themselves in books.

Taylor succinctly summed up the importance and celebratory feeling of the evening for the audience of over 150 people by noting that “it is something very special and very unusual to be able to talk to two people who have been both at the beginning of something and at the current level of recognition of outstanding work.”

Photo credit: Maurice Belanger

In fact, all three people on the stage at our event were Coretta Scott King Award winners: Greenfield and Taylor are both winners of the CSK-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award (Taylor in 2015, and Greenfield in 2018), and Reynolds has won the 2015 CSK-John Steptoe Award for new talent and three CSK Author Honors. Taylor stunned Reynolds by telling him that only one other author had won Coretta Scott King Awards in four consecutive years: Virginia Hamilton. Reynolds noted in an Instagram post later that evening, “I couldn’t believe it. Virginia Hamilton and me. Isabell’s son. I’m still reeling from that.” 

The through-line from Greenfield, who will soon turn 90, to the 35-year-old Reynolds is a strong and personal one. Indeed, Reynolds spoke of how he once worked in a bookstore specializing in African American writers and hand-sold, and also purchased for his own young relatives, many copies of Greenfield’s classic book, Honey, I Love. But Reynolds’ connection to Greenfield began even earlier; when he was 15 years old, he heard Greenfield read from her books at the main branch of the Washington, D.C. library system.

Photo credit: Maurice Belanger

“It means the world to me, 20 years later, to sit next to her and share a stage,” Reynolds said, adding that Greenfield’s writing “helped me to understand another version of what poetry could be… how much you could say with a bit of brevity.”

Greenfield, meanwhile, talked about what drew her into the world of children’s literature, with a special focus on African American children. “… it was very important to me to see that this work was being done,” she said. “My goal is to make children know how much they are loved…. I want them to be proud of themselves and have confidence in themselves because the world is not always that kind to them and to us who are Black.”

Photo credit: Maurice Belanger

Greenfield and Reynolds also talked about their writing process. In the Q&A following the main presentation, Greenfield, who has just published Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me, was asked to describe the “peaks” and the “pits” of writing. Greenfield responded, “It’s all tough.” She added that, because she writes for children, “people ask, ‘Didn’t you have fun writing this? No, I didn’t! I want the children who read it to have fun, but I didn’t have fun…. It’s hard work, but it’s very, very satisfying work.” Reynolds agreed, noting, “I tell everyone, ‘If you like it, somebody really suffered for it.”

Photo credit: Maurice Belanger

One of the most interesting questions of the evening was asked by a young audience member, who asked if Greenfield and Reynolds would ever collaborate. Reynolds immediately replied, “It would be my dream.” Greenfield added, “That would be wonderful.”

These are just a few of the many unforgettable moments during our 50th CSK anniversary event. Fortunately, there’s a way for everyone to enjoy the entire evening by clicking on this link: It’s well worth watching!

Karen MacPherson is the children’s & young adult manager at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, a member of the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT), and on the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Board of Directors.

#CSK50 Celebration Event in Langston Hughes House with I, Too Arts Collective

Lesa Cline-Ransome, Renée Watson, Rita Williams-Garcia and Tiffany Jackson
Photo credit: Danielle Privat

On April 23, in Langston Hughes’s Harlem brownstone living room, four Coretta Scott King Award recipients gathered to share their stories of winning the honor and what it means to them. Mutual admiration radiated from Lesa Cline-Ransome, Tiffany Jackson, Renee Watson, and Rita Williams-Garcia, to the delight of the enthusiastic audience. Perched next to one of Hughes’s typewriters, Jennifer Baker from Minorities in Publishing moderated the four writers through a discussion of their inspirations and paths to authorship. Then, on an eventful morning, their phones rang to make them award winners.

Tiffany Jackson, 2019 Steptoe winnter, with Bweela Steptoe Photo credit: Susan Polos

Cline-Ransome described her joy at being recognized for Finding Langston after nearly two decades of publishing books for young readers. She explained that children’s literature allowed her to investigate people’s lives and follow her passion for writing without talking to interview subjects, as a journalist would. As a child, Jackson, the John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for Monday’s Not Coming, sought out the CSK “sticker books” but never imagined becoming a recipient herself. She confessed how little she knew about the award process before publishing her first YA novel; CSK regular Jason Reynolds broke it to her that she should expect to speak at the awards breakfast.

Renee Watson detailed the surreal experience of receiving calls about Piecing Me Together from the Newbery committee and the CSK jury on the same morning, hearing from the Newbery group first. When the phone rang a second time, her first thought was “no take backs!” but fortunately, the call came from the CSK committee with more wonderful news. Rita Williams-Garcia–a four-time CSK winner for Like Sisters on the Homefront, One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, and Gone Crazy in Alabama–reiterated the particular delight of recognition from the Coretta Scott King jury. “The N-bery is lovely, but winning the CSK is like hearing mama say she approves.”  

Photo credit: Susan Polos

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee co-sponsored the event with the I, Too Arts Collective, a non-profit organization founded by Renee Watson and dedicated to cultivating underrepresented voices in the arts. The evening brought together librarians, students, writers, family, and more to celebrate these notable women and the award’s rich history. Asked about their own inspirations and influences, the authors offered support for each other. They shouted out some favorite CSK winners over the years, especially current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jacqueline Woodson, both for the lyricism of her writing and her way of being in the world. What they admire in her, they each strive to provide in their own writing: to reflect and validate the experience of other African-American readers, from D.C. to the Pacific Northwest. As the Coretta Scott King Book Award community honors the award’s impact for 50 years, these four authors demonstrate their power to inspire, commemorate, and shine a light.

Celebrate 50 Years Strong: The Coretta Scott King Awards KidLit TV recording:

Robbin Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Public Library in Chappaqua, NY. She is a member of the CSK Community.

Los Angeles Public Library’s 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Jené Brown at the LAPL CSK Celebration

On April 27, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) held a party at Central Library to launch a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Claudette McLinn, the Chair for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, joined Jené Brown, Associate Director of the library’s Engagement and Outreach Department, to kick off festivities for children that included a storytime, coloring craft, party hats, and cake. Because Mrs. King would have turned 92 on April 27, the children also sang “Happy Birthday.”

Dr. Claudette McLinn
LAPL Public Librarian Mara Alpert
Jené Brown, Mara Alpert & Claudette McLinn

Anniversary celebrations in LAPL’s 73-library system will feature events and programs at branches across the city throughout the year; an online Coretta Scott King 50th Anniversary Reading Challenge; and the “Our Voice” exhibit of original illustrations from Coretta Scott King Award-winning books, November 8, 2019 – January 27, 2020, at Central Library.

Jené Brown and Claudette McLinn

Presented annually, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.

Visit for details about LAPL’s reading challenge and upcoming 50th-anniversary events.

Jené Brown is Associate Director of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Engagement and Outreach Department. She serves as Recording Secretary for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

Photo credit: Gary Leonard

CSK Awards – 50 Years Strong!

Photo credit: Pat Toney
Photo credit: Pat Toney

On Monday, January 28, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair, announced the 2019 Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Award winners and Honor books, the 2019 John Steptoe winning titles for author and illustrator, and the 2019 CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award winner. This is the 50th year of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and the logo was prominently displayed on the screen at the ALA Youth Media Award announcement ceremony.

First announced was the 2019 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement (Practioner), Dr. Pauletta Bracy.

Photo credit: Pat Toney

Next up was the John Steptoe Award for New Talent. The 2019 Steptoe Award for New Talent (Illustrator) was awarded to Oge Mora, author, and illustrator of Thank You, Omu! The 2019 John Steptoe Award for New Talent (Author) was awarded to Tiffany D. Jackson for Monday’s Not Coming (HarperCollins)

2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award Honors for Illustration were awarded to Laura Freedman for Hidden Figures (written by Margot Lee Sherrerly, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books); Frank Morrison for Let the Children March (written by Monica Clark-Robison, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); and R. Gregory Christie for Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop (written by Alice Faye Duncan, published by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights).

The 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustration was awarded to Ekua Holmes, illustrator of The Stuff of Stars (written by Marion Dane Bauer and published by Candlewick Press).

2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honors were awarded to Lesa Cline-Ransome for Finding Langston (Holiday House); Varian Johnson for The Parker Inheritance ( Arthur A. Levine Books, a division of Scholastic); and Kekla Magoon for The Season of Styx Malone (Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC ).

The 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Author Award winner is Claire Hartfield for A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Photo credit: Pat Toney

Many thanks to the 2019 Coretta Scott Book Awards Jury and the 2019 CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award Jury members.

Don’t forget to purchase your ticket to the CSK Breakfast held in June during ALA Annual, when we will celebrate all these awards!

Susan Polos works as a school librarian at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY.  She is chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.

The Man Behind the Coretta Scott King Award Seal: Lev T. Mills

Have you ever wondered about the CSK seal? Who designed it and what do all those symbols mean? For an insight into the seal’s design and the artistic journey of Lev Mills, visit the 50th anniversary website.  You can hear from Lev Mills, and it will be an inspiring educational experience.

Carolyn Garnes is CSK Marketing chair and past CSK Task Force chair, 1993-1997.

Announcing a New CSK Blog Series: CSK-Winning Books Through the Decades, Observations and Reflections

In celebration of fifty years, the CSK Marketing Committee will present a special series of blog posts entitled “CSK Winning Books through the Decades: Observations and Reflections.” Each CSK Marketing Committee member will reveal his or her unique prospective on a specific decade.  The 1970s were the formative years for the award as new African American writers emerged.  In the 1980s, the CSK Book Awards became an official ALA award as African American literature evolved and transformed the landscape of children’s literature.  The 1990s revealed  that the very existence of the Award provided opportunities to be published and recognized for African American authors and illustrators where none existed in the past. The 2000s saw the award raise the level of expectations for editors and creators of children’s literature, becoming a goal to aspire to for African American writers and illustrators.  Now, in the 2010s, the award has succeeded as one of ALA’s most prestigious honors.  Stay tuned to the CSK Blog for more illuminating facts about the CSK Book Awards through the decades!

Carolyn Garnes is the Chair of the CSK Marketing Committee.

Help Us Celebrate CSK Award Winners!

Elementary students award Kwame Alexander their own medal for distinguished writing.
Photo credit: Susan Polos

Call for Submissions for the CSK Blog

The CSK Technology Committee would like to hear from you. As we count down to our 50th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C., we would like to feature the many ways our community uses and engages with CSK award-winning books in their libraries. Our goal is to feature as many CSK Award-winning books on the blog from now until our big celebration.

Are you a school librarian who uses CSK winning titles in innovative lessons? Are you a public librarian using CSK winning titles for programs or storytimes? Do you have a connection to, a cool story about, or a unique artifact of, a CSK award winner? Whether you would like to write your submission or be interviewed about your work by a technology committee member, please get in touch with us at csktechcommittee at gmail dot com today! Be sure to include the CSK award winner that will be highlighted in the post. Additionally, if you have ideas on how we can feature older award-winners, we would love to hear about that, too.

Maegen Rose works as a middle school librarian at Rye Country Day School in Rye, NY. She is a member of the CSK Book Award Technology Committee.