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Tracking Our Coretta Scott King Award

December 6, 2017

The Coretta Scott King Award is given annually "to encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts, including biographical, historical and social history treatments by African American authors and illustrators." (Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table - EMIERT

I have really enjoyed involving students in mock awards in the past for the opportunity to follow a process similar to an awards committee, maintaining knowledge of awards criteria and incorporating books eligible to receive the award at the ALA Youth Media Awards. I've worked with students on both mock Caldecott and mock Theodor Seuss Geisel units in the past, and each time it's been exciting to hold up our results against that of the committees to see how they compare.


Being at a new school and considering our diverse population, I decided this year to turn our focus to the Coretta Scott King Award (hereafter referred to as the CSK) and, by the reactions of children to the books so far, I'm so grateful we did. 




We've referenced the selection criteria numerous times since beginning this project. I'll leave the award description and link to the criteria here in case you find it helpful to have on hand as reference as well.


"The Award is given to an African American author and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."


Award criteria (link)




We are spending the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break reading and considering books for the award. I have selected 16 eligible picture books ahead of time (see below) and I've paired books loosely by theme, format, or content in order to balance out the competition as best I can. The CSK awards both African American authors and African American illustrators for work appealing to students up to the age of high school, but being in an elementary school I've opted for a sort of blended approach. I read two books to each library class (I read selected excerpts of the longer books) and then ask students to vote for which of the two books they feel had the most compelling story and illustrations. Here's a look at how our board is set up:

Since we're involving the entire school, comprised of about 600 students in Kindergarten through Grade 5, each book pair is read by a few classes before final votes are counted. The winning book moves ahead in our book bracket until we narrow down our list to two titles (a winner and an honor book).


We'll keep the bulletin board up through February and I'll add the official recipients of the CSK award following the ALA Youth Media Awards so that our students can compare our selections to that of the committee. No doubt our selection will meet the same expectation of the CSK committee "The Award is given to an African American author and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."




 We're considering 16 picture book titles this year. Our nominees are:


Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier

A songlike, poetic affirmation of the greatness in each black child to learn, to do, and to be. 
In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford and Brian Pinkney 
A prayer from a black mother to her child that he may grow up to fulfill the hopes and dreams that she holds for him amidst the adversity that he will face.
Princess Hair by Sharee Miller 
Celebrating the twelve different types of natural hair worn all all different kinds of princesses enjoying doing all different kinds of things.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
Admiring the results of a trip to the barber shop in not only looking different, but feeling different as well.
Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! It's Shoe Time! by Bryan Collier and Mo Willems
Shoe pairs are distraught when a girl selects a mismatching pair to wear for her day out with daddy.
The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper
Two families come together in marriage and Jackson's nervous about his big responsibility in the ceremony.
My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith
Heartfelt, truthful poems celebrate the role of a father in the life of a child from a role model to a rough-houser, to a comforter.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison 
The lives of 30 African American women are celebrated for their courage, strength, inventiveness, and significance in contributing to the world we live in today.
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! by Andrea Loney and Keith Mallett
An amazing portrait of the man who captured the Harlem Renaissance in photographs. 
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez
Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg whose groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth, and Ekua Holmes
A collection of poems written by three contemporary in the styles of renowned poets of the twentieth century.
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Selina Alko, and Sean Qualls
What defines who we are? Is it the people who raise us? Or perhaps the people who come into our lives? This picture book explores the question while leaving space for the reader to come to his or her own answer.
A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy's Big Speech by Shana Corey, R. Gregory Christie
A biography of John F. Kennedy and the events and individuals that spurred him to address the nation urging that it was now a time to act against segregation and oppression.
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson  
Told in sparse, poetic text, this picture book holds up images of our nation against the colors of our flag in a reminder of the strength of our nation and its people.
The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford and Elizabeth Zunon


Celebrating the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist.

A Child's Book of Prayers and Blessings: From Faiths and Cultures Around the World by Deloris Jordan, Shadra Strickland


A collection of more than twenty poems and prayers selected especially to share with children affirming the wonder and beauty of all things great and small in our world. 

*This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will support the costs of maintaining the podcast, webcomic, and other materials associated with this site. 

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