The Coretta Scott King Book Awards for Authors and Illustrators


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.

Selection Criteria

Presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Committee of the American Library Association's (ALA) Ethnic Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). Award recipients are announced each January during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The awards are presented at the Annual Conference (each June) of the American Library Association.

The award consists of a plaque and a cash award of $1,000 donated by Johnson Publications to the author and Book Wholesalers to the illustrator. Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book donate sets of encyclopedias (Britannica to the author, and World Book to the illustrator). Deadline for nominations is December 1 of each year.

  1. Must portray some aspect of the African American experience, past, present, or future.
  2. Must be written/illustrated by a African American.
  3. Must be published in the U.S. in the year preceding presentation of the Award.
  4. Must be original work
  5. Must be written for a youth audience in one of the three categories:
    • Preschool–grade 4
    • Grades 5–8
    • Grades 9–12
  6. Must meet established standards of quality writing for youth which include:
    • Clear plot
    • Well-drawn characters which portray growth and development during the course of the story
    • Writing style which is consistent with and suitable to the age intended
    • Accuracy
  7. Particular attention will be paid to titles that seek to motivate readers to develop their own attitudes and behaviors as well as comprehend their personal duty and responsibility as citizens in a pluralistic society.
  8. Illustrations should reflect established qualitative standards and
“heighten and extend the reader's awareness of the world around him. They should lead him to an appreciation of beauty. The style and content of the illustrations should be ... neither coy nor condescending ... Storytelling qualities should enlarge upon the story elements that were hinted at in the text and should include details that will awaken and strengthen the imagination of the reader and permit him to interpret the works and pictures in a manner unique to him.”
—Cianciolo, Illustrations in Children's Books (p. 24.25)


The CSK Award has grown since its inception in the late 1960s. At its humble inception at the May 1970 dinner gala of the New Jersey Library Association, Lillie Patterson was honored for her biography, Martin Luther King, Jr. Man of Peace.

In 1972, CSK held its first breakfast at an ALA conference site (but without ALA recognition). Official affiliation with SRRT came in 1980 and in 1982 the American Library Association recognized the Coretta Scott King Award as an association award. Success of the CSK Task Force can be attributed to the work of tireless volunteers and visionary founders.

For a more complete history consult two works: The Coretta Scott King Awards Book, From Vision to Reality Edited by Henrietta Smith, American Library Association, 1994 and The Coretta Scott King Awards Book, 1970-1999, Edited by Henrietta M. Smith, American Library Association, 1999.


John Steptoe Award for New Talent


The award is established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force.

These books affirm new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.


The criteria for eligibility will be the same as those for the writing and illustration awards, with the exception that the winner(s)' published works cannot exceed three in number.

An author or illustrator who has already received or has just been selected to win one of the Coretta Scott King Awards in the current year is not eligible for the John Steptoe Award for New Talent. An author may receive this award one time.

One award will be presented annually for text or illustrations. The committee may choose to select one book for writing and a second book for illustration. The award need not be given if the committee so decides in a particular year.


Coretta Scott King Book Award Sponsors

  • Johnson Publications, Chicago, IL
  • World Book, Inc.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
  • Book Wholesalers, Inc.(BWI)


0:0 ::
Coretta Scott King Book Award, Seal, History
The Coretta Scott King Award is presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Committee of the American Library Association's Ethnic Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). The award (or awards) is given to an African American author and an African American illustrator for an outstandingly inspirational and educational contribution. The books promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream. The Award is further designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.