Q. I was recently teaching my students about the various literary awards for children’s writers and was asked an interesting question by a student. I have looked on your website as well as on the internet in general and cannot find a complete answer. I am hoping you can help me.
In the design for the Coretta Scott King Award, there are five religious symbols that are in line underneath the child reading the book. . . . My student asked me what they are. And his whole class is now fascinated with knowing about the design. Can you verify for me what these symbols actually are? Thank you so much for your help.
A. I had this very same question years ago, and I was surprised that the symbols were not more explicitly labeled and explained beyond being described, “The five main religious symbols below the image of the child represent nonsectarianism.”
So one day, here on the ALA Library Reference Desk, I went looking for a website or other contact information on the designer of the Coretta Scott King Award seal, Lev Mills. And I found this information very quickly. I sent an email to Lev Mills asking about the symbols. And he wrote me back a letter that stated the following:
The five nonsectarian* symbols appearing on the Coretta Scott King Award seal represent:
Star and Crescent - a symbol of Islam. Many nations with a Muslim majority display this symbol on its flags. This not a religious symbol but rather it is a national, cultural, political, military, or community symbol.
Om - a symbol of Hinduism. The written form of the word is in Sanskrit, a language of India. The sound OM is used repeatedly during meditation.
Latin Cross - a symbol of Christianity; the cross upon which Jesus died; Christian emblem or badge.
Star of David - a hexagram used as a symbol of Judaism.
Tao - a symbol of China. Pronounced “Dow,” it has the design of “Yang and Yin” (Dualism); its purpose is to nourish balance in the universe.
*not affiliated with or limited to a specific religious denomination.
Information provided by Lev T. Mills designer of the Coretta Scott King Award seal. 6/13/2002.
Lev Mills ended his letter with the handwritten note, “I trust that this is the information you need.” It was indeed! I responded to Lev Mills, letting him know that I had received his letter and very much appreciated his taking the time to write and explain his own original design of the Coretta Scott King Award seal!'