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

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.

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.

The Criteria of the award is as follows:

  1. Must portray some aspect of the black experience, past, present, or future.
  2. Must be written/illustrated by an African American
  3. Must be published in the U.S. in the year preceding presentation of the Award. (For example: only books published in 2023 will qualify for the 2024 award.)
  4. Must be an original work
  5. 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
  6. Must be written for a youth audience in one of three categories:
    • Preschool-grade 4
    • Grades 5-8
    • Grades 9-12
  7. Particular attention will be paid to titles which 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 identified in the statement below:

    Illustrations should... “heighten and extend the readers' 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 in the text and should include details that will awaken and strengthen the imagination of the reader and permit him to interpret the words and pictures in a manner unique to him”
    --Cianciolo, Illustrations in Children's Books (p. 24-25)

Eligibility and Exclusions

  1. Author or illustrator must live in the U.S. or maintain dual residency/citizenship.
  2. Book must be published in the year preceding the year the award is given, evidenced by the copyright date printed in the book.
  3. Only finished copies will be accepted. Do not send advance reader copies, galleys, etc.
  4. Titles submitted for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards will not be returned. Titles received by the ODLOS office are donated as part of The Coretta Scott King Books Awards Donation Grant

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 Book Awards Committee.

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.

Selection Criteria

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 Book 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.

Apply before December 31st at 4pm ct.