Category Archives: Past Events and Important People

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.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards to Mark 50 Years of Honoring the Best in Children and Youth Literature Celebrating the Black Experience

It’s a celebration! The entire year of 2019 marks the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards. What a milestone! The CSK Book Awards have enlarged the prominence of literature for children and youth about the Black experience and heightened the work of our author and illustrator winners and honorees. Your support has been unwavering, and you have empowered the CSK Book Awards to endure for 50 years.

We are excited to announce the CSK Books Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website. Please visit often. You will find updates and announcements from the planning team. Feel free to access the Fact Sheet, Press Release template, Public Service Announcement (PSA) template, and Talking Points to use for your CSK 50 programs and presentations. If you are presenting a CSK 50 program, let us know via email at

The CSK Book Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website can be accessed in two ways: 1) Visit our CSK Book Awards Home page,, and click on the blue link 50th anniversary -or- 2) Visit directly at

Using the hashtag #CSK50 on social media, share with us your favorite moments from past Coretta Scott King Book Awards breakfasts, Coretta Scott King Book Award titles that you and your library cherish, or what this award means to you as a library worker, educator, student, reader, or writer. Plan on attending ALA Annual 2019 in Washington, D.C., to celebrate with us in person!

We will have a Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary T-Shirt on sale at the ALA store. The Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary Lapel Pin (item #5302-1911) is presently on sale at the ALA store. The sixth edition of the CSK Book Awards publication will also be available at the ALA store soon. Purchase these beautiful keepsake items for you, colleagues, family, and friends. The ALA store website is

Let’s celebrate CSK 50 Years Strong!


Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee

Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards Opens at the Eric Carle Museum

Our Voice Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Saturday, October 20, 2018, was the special opening reception of Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. This traveling art exhibition was assembled through the collaboration of the American Library Association and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL). This exhibition features 100 works of art from 38 CSK winners and honor illustrators and remains on view through January 27, 2019. Our Voice is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of CSK illustrator winners and honors ever assembled since the illustrator award was established in 1974.

Ellen Keiter, Reynolds Ruffin, Ekua Holmes, Gordon C. James, Jerry Pinkney, and George C. Ford from left to right.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Several of the CSK illustrator winner and honor award recipients were present at the opening reception. The illustrators include George C. Ford, the first recipient and winner of the CSK Illustrator Award in 1974; Reynolds Ruffin, 1997 honor awardee; JoeSam, 1988 honor awardee; Charles R. Smith, Jr., 2010 award winner; Gordon C. James, 2018 honor awardee; and Ekua Holmes, 2018 award winner. A special one-hour program in the auditorium featured Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.

Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James, in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

This exhibition was curated by Ellen Keiter, chief curator at The Eric Carle Museum, and her super creative staff. iPad stations were provided where visitors had the opportunity to listen to audio clips of many of the artists speaking about their work in their own voice. In addition, small cards with quotations by Coretta Scott King were provided free for guests to take home.

This is a remarkable exhibition. If you are in the greater Boston area, please visit and make the trip with family or colleagues.

Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan
Let It Shine Book book cover and artwork (2008)

Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan is an extraordinary exhibit* at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in Portland, Maine, honoring the work of 2012 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winner Ashley Bryan. The exhibit consists of original artwork from 14 of Bryan’s books, including two that won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration: Let It Shine (2008) and Beautiful Blackbird (2004), as well as several CSK Honor award-winning books, including Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (2017) and Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry (1998).

Beautiful Blackbird book cover and artwork (2004)

For Bryan, a renowned artist, writer, and storyteller, rhythm is essential to life, and this idea carries into the art he creates for every book.

His use of vibrant colors along with rich language gives each book a sense of movement. His illustrations offer a visual lyricism.

A perfect complement to this exhibition is the addition of a film in Bryan’s own expressive voice describing his childhood and the influences that led him to a life of sharing African American spirituals, poetry, and stories.

Freedom Over Me book cover and artwork (2017)

To make the experience even better is the addition of colorful, moveable seating at the perfect height for children, set among wooden bins filled with his books at their fingertips.

One could spend quite a bit of time just sitting, slowly turning the pages of his books while listening to his familiar cadence and resonant voice.

Ashley Bryan creates beautiful books that beg to be read aloud and shared over and over and over again.

*This exhibition, organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, is on view through November 25, 2018.

Photos of Ashley Bryan’s art were taken at the exhibit with permission from the museum.

Louise Capizzo is a Teen and Youth Services Librarian for a public library in Scarborough, ME. A member of the CSK Technology Committee, Louise is also a blogger for The Nonfiction Detectives.

CSK at ALA 2018

There were five Coretta Scott King Book Award events during the 2018 ALA Annual Conference, and all were wonderful.

The first events were the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Executive Board Meeting, followed by the Community-General Meeting, both the morning of Saturday, June 23, at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Secretary Jené Brown, Chair Dr. Claudette McLinn, and Chair-Elect Professor Alan Bailey listen as action items are debated.

Jené Brown, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Prof. Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos
CSK Executive Board Meeting. Dr. Bracy, Erika Marks, Sam Bloom, Elisa Gall, Amber Hayes, Deborah Taylor. Photo: Susan Polos

Members of the CSK Executive Board considered proposals. We had an opportunity to meet Amber Hayes, the new ODLOS Outreach and Communications Program Officer, whose responsibilities include work with the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

CSK Membership Meeting. Photo: Susan Polos

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards General Meeting was well attended. Two CSK Book Awards Jury members were elected: Jewel Davis and Maegen Rose.

Members of the CSK Book Awards Committee Executive Board, Back row: Dr. Safi S. M. Safiullah, Elisa Gall, Susan Polos, Crystal Carr Jeter, Sam Bloom, Jené Brown, Deimosa Webber-Bey, Bettye Smith, Nick Glass, Erika Marks, Carmen Boston. Front Row: Deborah Taylor, Dr. Pauletta Bracy, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Professor Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos

We were able to take an official photo of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Executive Board.

Later on June 23, at 6 p.m., members and friends gathered for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Reception to celebrate 2018 Virginia Hamilton honoree Eloise Greenfield.

Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Eloise Greenfield, Deborah Taylor at Virginia Hamilton Award Reception 2018. Photo: Michael McLinn

The sold-out Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast was held on Sunday, June 24, from 7:00 9:30 a.m. at the Hilton Riverside.

Jené Watson presenting. Photo: Susan Polos

On Monday, the CSK program, “Using Coretta Scott King Award-Winning Books to Enrich Programs and Instruction in Public, School, and Academic Libraries,” was offered at 10:30 a.m. in the Morial Convention Center to a standing-room-only crowd.

Dr. Jonda McNair, Andrea Jamison, Jené Watson, Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos

Professor Alan Bailey moderated the panel while Dr. Jonda McNair, Andrea Jamison, and Jené Watson presented.

Many other informal gatherings and opportunities to connect were also part of the ALA experience. Our CSK Technology Committee, usually virtual, met in person!

The CSK Technology Committee Meeting at ALA 2018. Photo: Susan Kusel

If you have any photos from ALA in New Orleans specific to the Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee, please share them in the comments.

We’ll see you next at Midwinter in Seattle – and here on the blog, as well.

Post by Susan Polos and Maegen Rose

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.

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

CSK Well Represented at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

The University of Southern California (USC) was the site of the 23rd Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Well over 150,000 people attended the two-day event, April 21 – 22, which consisted of conversations with award-winning authors, journalists, celebrities, chefs, artists, and musicians. Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards was well represented with CSK Winner and Honor awardees Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds, respectively, as featured speakers at the event.

Dr. Claudette S. McLinn in Conversation with 2017 CSK Honor Winner Jason Reynolds at Bovard Auditorium, USC.

Jason Reynolds,  2018 CSK Honor Author Award winner for  Long Way Down, was a featured speaker interviewed on Saturday by CSK Chair Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, who is also Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Reynolds revealed the various aspects of his writing, including why he writes, the reasons for the various themes of his books, the purpose of his open-ended endings, and more. It was an informative as well as lively conversation. Long Way Down was also the 2018 winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, awarded the previous evening.

Secrets and Discovery Panel members (from left): Brandy Colbert, Robin Benway, Dr. McLinn, Renée Watson, and Abdi Nazemian.

Dr. McLinn was also the moderator of the Sunday panel discussion. Renée Watson, the author of the 2018 CSK Author Award-winning book Piecing Me Together, was a member of the panel discussion titled “Secrets and Self Discovery” with members: Brandy Colbert, author of Little & Lion; Robin Benway, author of Far From the Tree; and Abdi Nazemian, author of The Authentics. The authors were allowed to summarize their books and explain how each related to the session theme. Many thought-provoking questions were raised from the audience, which made it a very energized discussion.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was a high-energy literary experience filled with many author presentations, vendor booths, stage performances, and storytelling. Looking forward to next year!

Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.  She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Telling a People’s Story: Art Exhibition and Conference

The Miami University Art Museum (MUAM) in Oxford, Ohio, currently boasts a treasure trove of original artwork from African American children’s book illustrators. This picture book gold can be found in Telling a People’s Story: African American Children’s Illustrated Literature, an exhibition of approximately 130 works by 33 artists from 88 books, which runs at MUAM through June 30.

Courtesy of the Miami University Art Museum

Among the artwork on display are pieces from Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awardees past and present, from Tom Feelings and John Steptoe to Ekua Holmes and Kadir Nelson. And, in a nice touch that one doesn’t often see at art galleries, visitors can find and read the books the art came from below each piece while browsing the exhibit.

A conference will take place in conjunction with the art exhibition from April 20-21 at MUAM. Among the CSK alums presenting at the conference are R. Gregory Christie, Ekua Holmes, E.B. Lewis, Jerry Pinkney, Javaka Steptoe, and Shadra Strickland.

Jason Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions at MUAM, said of this conference: “I’m so excited to be able to bring several major illustrators together in one place, and to hear their perspectives…. [In a picture book], we hear the words of the author through their words, and we see the voice of the illustrator through their illustrations, but [the conference] is an opportunity to actually hear the words of the illustrators.”

Courtesy of the Miami University Art Museum

For more information on the exhibit and conference, please visit In addition, local radio profiled the exhibit here and here.

Sam Bloom is Senior Children’s Librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. He is the Chair of the CSK Book Awards Jury.

Julius Lester (1939 – 2018)

Julius Lester, 2015

“The Coretta Scott King Award is special because it does not only honor books for their literary merits. Of equal importance are the moral dimensions of a work. I learned what it is to be a moral writer from the work of Edward Lewis Wallant, a young Jewish writer who died much too early. He is best remembered for his novel The Pawnbroker. I read all of his novels while I was still a struggling, unpublished writer, and what amazed me about his work was that he never took sides against his characters, even ones whose actions were despicable. The other quality I took from his work was that, more often than people are given credit for, humans triumph over adversity, be it crushing poverty, illnesses teetering over the abyss of death, physical or psychological limitations. There is a transcendent dimension to the human experience, and it was this belief in a transcendent humanity that characterized the lives and works of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King. It is this belief in a transcendent humanity which the Coretta Scott King awards seek to draw attention in the books these awards honor. I accept this award on behalf of those whose condition may have been slavery but whose lives, more often than not, transcended their condition. Many of them entrusted their spirits and their stories to me to bring to you. We thank you.”

From the 2006 Coretta Scott King Author Award Speech by Julius Lester for Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue.

Post by Maegen Rose

Maegen Rose works as a school librarian at the Collegiate School in New York City, an independent school for boys. She works with students, staff, and families to provide and promote diverse literature. 


The Mighty Eight Wow Audience at the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Pre-Conference During NCAAL 10

Eight Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book award-winning authors and illustrators made an unprecedented appearance at a pre-conference during the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL) held in Atlanta, GA, August 9-13, 2017, at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violet Social Change’s Freedom Hall.  The CSK Book Awards Committee provided funding for this event. Never before in recent years have this many CSK Award-winning authors and illustrators appeared together.  The prestigious panel included illustrators Jerry Pinkney, R. Gregory Christie, and James Ransome; authors Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Jason Reynolds.

Left to right Dorothy Guthrie (NCAAL co-chair and CSK member), James Ransome, Jerry Pinkney, Carole Boston Weatherford, Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, R. Gregory Christie, Joyce Mills, Lev Mills, and Carolyn Garmes (NCAAL co-chair and CSK member)

The audience was treated to statements by all about what happened when they got the call letting them know they had won the CSK Award.  The Award winners are announced during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, usually held in January each year. The responses were both humorous and serious. Some did not realize they won the award until it was announced in the press.   Each shared an award-winning book and gave tips on using the book with children.  The presenters wowed the audience, which consisted of conference attendees, local librarians, teachers, and children’s book lovers. CSK Jury member LaKeshia Darden brought her children. They were attentive and engaged throughout the session.

Jason Reynolds (not shown in the group photo)

A video was presented revealing the legacy of Lev Mills, the designer of the CSK seal.  Mills talked about his career, his relationship with Glyndon Greer, and he explained the unique features of the seal. In a casual atmosphere, attendees were able to dine with the authors and illustrators as well as take away great ideas and leave enlightened about the history of the design of the CSK seal.

Post by Carolyn Garnes

Carolyn Garnes was Co-Chair of the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians. She is a longtime member and past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.


Ashley Bryan’s Stories Are Alive in Atlanta!

Anything you can do that can stimulate the imagination of another…is the most exciting thing you can do as an artist.  ~Ashley Bryan

With 50 books to his credit, Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ashley Bryan creates beautiful mindscapes for children.  Full of love of life and humanity, his body of work shares the stories of people of the African Diaspora as preserved in songs, poems, and folktales.  

In tribute to his longevity, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre has staged two plays based on the works of the beloved artist, teacher, and scholar.  Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird, winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, are the books selected for production by the Alliance’s Theatre for the Very Young. The plays complement the exhibit Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan on view at the city’s High Museum of Art until January 21, 2018.  

The opening voice of  
The Dancing Granny is a character patterned after Ashley Bryan himself.  He is the tale weaver and griot whose narration and fancy footwork bookend this tale inspired by Mr. Bryan’s memories of his grandmother.   

Elaborate lighting and vibrant costumes along with Afro-Caribbean choreography and a range of percussion instruments– some made by the children in the audience as a pre-show activity– all come together to set the joyful tone of this show which encourages children’s expressive engagement. 

From the Alliance Theatre website Breanna Ross, Benjamin Sims, Chani Maisonet, Akumba Bynum-Roberson, and Ameenah Kaplan in the Alliance Theatre’s 2017/18 production of The Dancing Granny.  Photo by Greg Mooney.

Beautiful Blackbird is more understated than The Dancing Granny.  Arranged like an interactive playground for babies and toddlers, children sit on felt sun patches that encircle a chuppah-style canopy.   Bold quilts depicting night and day serve as backdrops for live electric guitarists who strum jazzy lines while the young ones roam and play.  

The audience hears Blackbird before they see him.  When he emerges, with rhinestones glimmering like dewdrops from his dark wings, he glides about the set, coaxing rhythm from his djembe.  The little ones play along on miniature African drums as Blackbird shares his musical gifts with the multi-colored members of his flock.  The message: know your beauty, find your unique groove.

Eugene Russell IV, who played the griot-tale weaver Ashley Bryan in The Dancing Granny and composed the music for Beautiful Blackbird, says: “The story is an unapologetic celebration of blackness which at the same time encourages all kids to be who they are, that who they are is beautiful, and enough. I think that’s a beautiful combination.” He goes on to say that stepping into the world of Ashley Bryan “really did change me life in a wonderful and beautiful way. I’m a forever fan. It will always be a part of my family’s life.”

To learn more:

Ashley Bryan Teacher Resource

Ashley Bryan Speaking About the Coretta Scott King Award

Post by Jené Watson

Jené Watson works as a public librarian at a system in suburban Atlanta, where she coordinates Books in the Barbershop community outreach and Mindful Monday, a family meditation program.  She is also the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (