Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Book Award’s 50th Anniversary

By Gennifer R. RSS Fri, December 20, 2019

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, honoring African American authors and illustrators in children’s and young adult literature. Noted by their familiar emblem, the Coretta Scott King Award comes in a variety of colors. The bronze and black emblem is the original insignia, denoting a winner of the award. The black and pewter emblem expresses an honorary award, given to notable authors and illustrators. The John Steptoe New Talent Award acknowledges the contributions of new authors and illustrators, with a black and green emblem. Through the recognition of every talented and thoughtful nominee, the Coretta Scott King Book Award has raised multiple generations with a vision of representation and imagination since 1969.

During the summer, Parkway Central Library Senior Services commemorated the award with a five-part discussion series centered around children’s literature and the impact of representation at an early age.  The series, Conversations in Color, brought seniors together to share stories and thoughts on what early childhood representation meant to them at different stages of life. Seeing stories of African American and African Diasporic people living, celebrating, and navigating the pitfalls of history, honored the values of the award, which celebrates an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. Notable authors, such as Claire Hartfield, Marion Dane Bauer, and Tiffany D. Jackson have been popular new additions to the Free Library for all ages to enjoy.

The representation created through the Coretta Scott King award has been changing perceptions for many decades. Each year, more authors and illustrators are granted the award, which is a big change from the state of affairs in 1969. This means that fewer and fewer generations will grow up without seeing themselves reflected in the literary world, and can imagine themselves in futures of all kind.

At the conception of the award, the Newberry Medal and Caldecott Medal had both been established, but neither had nominated any authors or illustrators of color. In fact, that type of representation was yet to be seen. The creation of the Coretta Scott King Book Award allowed for a change in perception, opening up the door for new publications, and a first-person narrative of what life was like in Black America. The significance of the award set a new precedent for American literary culture.

This month, the celebration continues! In the final month of the Coretta Scott King Award’s 50th anniversary, we will be celebrating the remarkable award with our online Winter Reading Challenge! Each age track will have a curated Coretta Scott King booklist, available on the Beanstack app or online platform from now through February 29, 2020. Take a second look at old favorites, like The Patchwork Quilt authored by Valerie Flournoy and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, or get into this year’s most sought after Coretta Scott King Award reads, like The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Peruse through One Book, One Philadelphia nominees on the Beanstack book list, such as 2018 nominee, Jaqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn. Find inspiring reads all throughout Black History Month, for classrooms, children, teens, and adults.

Along with the above recommended reads, the Winter Reading Challenge invites participants to engage in activities, try out writing challenges, and earn special badges in honor of King-nominated reads. Celebrate with friends and family throughout the season!

Follow the hashtag #CSK50 for more 50th anniversary highlights!


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