Coretta Scott King Book Award

Children's Literature Project: Award winning texts

About this award

Founded in 1969, the Coretta Scott King award is given to Children's and young adult books that demonstrate an outstanding appreciation for African American culture. The award honors Dr. King, his wife and all of their arduous work.
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Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia C. Mckissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This story is about the journey of a young girl, named 'Tricia Ann, to "someplace special". You learn later in the story that this special place is the public library. Growing up in a time where Jim Crow laws and signs segregated the community, most black families were reluctant to send their children anywhere alone until they were of age to handle the racism and discrimination. During 'Tricia Ann's first trip alone she encounters several situations that try to break her spirit like being shooed out of a hotel that does not allow "coloreds" and having to give up her bus seat. 'Tricia Ann also encounters positive people that encourage her to endure the indignities and keep her head held high. Her grandmother and other loved ones instilled her with respect, love, pride and courage to overcome the injustices and make it to that special place. The public library is "someplace special" because it welcomes all people of the community. Not only was it a place where she felt comfortable, but it was also a place where she could read and learn about anything she chose. To 'Tricia Ann and her grandmother "reading is the doorway to freedom" making the public library more important than any other place.

I really enjoyed this story. Reading of this young girl struggling through these harsh experiences, but keeping her head held high just gives me this great sense of joy. It makes me appreciate my life and it motivates me to keep going through the struggles I may be experiencing because it could be so much worse.

Goin' Someplace Special teaches about the unfair treatment of African Americans in a way that is not overwhelming or too harsh for elementary students. It is a great way to begin lessons on civil rights, Jim Crow laws and segregation. This text also teachers about character traits such as endurance or perseverance. By showing how 'Tricia Ann endured her troubles and persevered to complete her journey. It also subtly teaches the importance of reading by making the library this special place with comfort and freedom.

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Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet and Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This is a text about a slave named Dave who expertly mastered the skill of pottery. His pottery was more than just pots, it was beautifully made art that included poems he had written. The book goes through Dave's process and how he is so skilled at his craft that he views things such as the dirt, clay and pots differently than others. He is such an artist that he seems to create his masterpieces almost effortlessly.

This book really touched my heart. Understanding slavery and how dangerous it was as a slave to even read and write makes Dave's story extraordinary. He was very fortunate to have and be able to express such a skill in a time when African Americans were oppressed and forced to be as unskilled as possible. I love this book and Dave's courage. It really makes me think about if he had been forced to conceal his talents, both he and his artwork would probably be unknown. Reading this book, in my opinion, leads to a great appreciation for my education.

This text could be used to discuss slavery and the hardships they faced when it came to learning and being skilled. It could also be a great way to teach about poetry.

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Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan

Beautiful Blackbird is an amazing, rhythmic story. It is a tale of a long time ago when all birds were colorful except the one blackbird. The blackbird was considered the most beautiful bird of the forest because of his black color. The other birds were so desperate to be beautiful like blackbird that they ask him to give them a touch of black. Blackbird gives every bird a touch of black, but he mentions that true beauty is from within and that the touch of black they love does not change who they are. As the birds sport their new looks, they praise Blackbird for giving them all a touch of black because "Black is beautiful".

I love this story because their are so many inspirational messages. I interpreted this story in two different ways. I felt that the story has this over-arching point that everyone should embrace their heritage/culture and find ways to share it with others. Also that others should embrace different cultures because they are all beautiful. I also interpreted the story as beauty is from within and regardless of your outer appearance you are still you (a beautiful person) on the insides. This book just makes me feel good inside.

This is a great text to teach students to appreciate both their own and other cultures. It is also a way to discuss building positive self-images and high self-esteem. It is really great for talking about discovering the beauty inside of yourself and other individuals. This book can help with letting the students hear rhyming words. It is also just an interesting tale of how birds have different spots and patterns.

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Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

This is a book about a young girl named Cassie, who uses her vivid imagination to pretend she has the ability to fly. According to her, when she flew over things it granted her ownership. Cassie is really lying on tar beach, the rooftop of the building she lives in and imagining all the places she cannot get to. Tar beach is a place of gathering for her family and neighbors. The main topic of the story is that her dad works very hard at a dangerous job to provide for their family. Due to his father not being in the union and the color of his skin, he is unable to join the union himself. Cassie wants to help by flying over the 'The Union Building' and making her father the owner. She is proud of her father's accomplishments, but feels that it would solve all of their family and financial problems. Regardless of their situations Cassie really enjoys resting on tar beach and flying among the stars.

I enjoyed this story because Cassie and her family were struggling due to her father's race/ethnicity, but they still found happiness with the simple things in their lives. Although Cassie thinks a lot about ways to improve their lives or be rich, she still finds richness in relaxing on tar beach with her family and among the skyscrapers and stars.

This text could be read aloud as a nice segue into discussion about how different cultures spend family time. It could lead into a history lesson about the George Washington Bridge and Union workers. It could help teach about the effects of race on careers and unions.

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ellington was not a street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This is a story of a young girl growing up in the company of very influential African American men. She describes how these amazing people who changed many aspects of the world, such as W.E.B. DuBois, walked the stairs of her home. She expresses how this innovative individuals were not always celebrated. They were doing amazing things in a time period where the color of their skin determined their importance. She points out how they did not allow the adversity to stop them. They showed the importance of African American culture and to this day they are inspirations to many. Some of those mentioned were Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Ray Barretto, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Duke Ellington, Virgil Akins and the Clovers. Included in this book are detailed descriptions of how these people changed the world and introduced different cultural things to America.

I enjoyed this book and the way it humanizes some of the great people it talks about. I love how it gives so much information about those who influenced Black and Latin cultures.

This is a great book for historical lessons on any of the characters in the story. It is a great way to teach about how they affected our lives today. This book is written in a way that would make it easy to teach a lesson on dialect.

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Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This is the story of Rosa Parks and her courageous decision not to move from her bus seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. It describes her frustration with the unequal segregation of whites and blacks and how her courage sparked the mobilization of others to make a difference. Rosa Parks became the centerpiece for thisimportant event in our civil rights battle history. It gives historical facts about Supreme Court rulings that led to the desegregation on buses and all the hard work it took to get to that point.

"The integrity, the dignity, the quiet strength of Rosa Parks turned her no into a YES for change."

I really liked this book because it give the account of Rosa Parks in a factual and child friendly way.

This is a great book for teaching about the civil rights movement and the role Rosa Parks played to help this event. It is also a great book for discussion of smaller events that took place during the civil rights battle, such as the death of Emmett Til.

This presentation is for teachers in grades third through fifth. Each of these great stories can help a teacher to delve into the history of African Americans and African American culture.