April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Civil Rights Movement Spotlighted at Jane Addams Book Awards Ceremony

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards ceremony was held in the shadow of the United Nations tower. Photo: Rocco Staino.

Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement were at the forefront this year at the 60th annual Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards ceremony, held on Friday, October 18 in New York City. The awards are given annually to children’s books, praised for their excellence, that also promote peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and races.

Three of the six books being recognized this year touched on civil rights. These include the honor books We March (Roaring Brook, 2012) by Shane W. Evans and Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage For Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours (National Geographic, 2012) by Ann Bausum, along with We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree, 2012) by Cynthia Levinson, the award winner in the older children’s category.

Jacqueline Woodson, twice recipient of an Addams award, this year won a $1000 cash prize for her sensitive picture book Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2012), a story written in free verse. It was illustrated by E.B. Lewis, who also received the award. “With growing income disparity and bullying on the rise, this story of remorse and lost opportunity arrives none too soon,” says Sara Lissa Paulson says in her School Library Journal review of the book.

Other honor books recognized during the celebration were Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Casilla, and Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World (Houghton Mifflin) by Sy Montgomery.

“The final selection was made from a longlist of 40 titles,” Marianne Baker told School Library Journal. She is the chair of the 10-person award committee.

Jan Lisa Huttner dressed as Jane Addams. Photo: Rocco Staino.

Also in attendance at the ceremony were 14 students from the Walt Whitman Middle School in Brooklyn. Their school librarian, Alla Umanskaya, uses the award to teach her students about Jane Addams and the topics covered by award-winning books including peace, social justice, and constructive problem solving.

The students were happy to meet the winning authors as well as Jane Addams herself—or at least, Jan Lisa Huttner, who paid homage to Addams by dressing in character. She shared with attendees detailed information about the life of Addams, a pioneer social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two books (one for younger children and one for older children) published in the preceding year are awarded the top prize, while two honor books are chosen in each category. The awards, which were announced in April, have been presented annually by the Jane Addams Peace Association and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom since 1953.

For more information, check out The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award: Honoring Children’s Literature for Peace and Social Justice since 1953 by Susan Griffith, a former committee chair. The book was published by Scarecrow Press in September in honor of the award’s diamond anniversary.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.



  1. Margaret Harrington Tamulonis says:

    Rocco Staino’s article about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards is so informative and well written that he really shows the spirit of the day. Also I like the video he included of the wonderful author’s speeches. That picture of Jan Lisa Huttner as Jane Addams made me smile with delight. It’s important to know that there is a Jane Addams Day on December 10th because the more we know about Jane Addams the better chance we have that children will live in a peaceful world, the kind of a world that a good education can make come true.

  2. Dear Mr. Staino:
    Thank you so much for your wonderful coverage of last week’s splendid Jane Addams Children’s Book Award event at the United Nations. I was so very pleased to receive the invitation to meet all the children and the worthy members and guests of the Jane Addams Peace Association. To be honored in this way means a great deal to me. However, I must make one correction. I was, indeed, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but the first woman was Bertha von Suttner. You can read more about her important work here:
    Ms. von Suttner and I are now two of fifteen.
    With sincere appreciation for your efforts,
    “Jane Addams”

    • Karyn M. Peterson Karyn M. Peterson says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I have updated the story to reflect this correction.
      Karyn M. Peterson
      News Editor, SLJ