Kenosha Librarian Launches Coretta Scott King Award Program

In this 50th anniversary year of the award, Heather Thompson joins the 50-50 Initiative with a family reading program spotlighting past CSK winners.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Awards and as part of the golden anniversary, the CSK Program Committee is challenging librarians and educators across the country to hold at least one program or presentation highlighting CSK award-winning books, authors, and illustrators. Calling it the 50-50 Initiative, the committee hopes to have at least one program in each of the 50 states.

Heather Thompson

Librarian Heather Thompson put Wisconsin on the map with her program at the Kenosha Public Library. The youth services program librarian has developed a family book club using past CSK winners.  Thompson currently has three months planned. Her first month’s book, for February,  was Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. March is Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and April will be One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Seven families signed up for the program and received a free copy of Brown Girl Dreaming for February. Unfortunately, a snowstorm struck the day of the program. Still, two families made it to the discussion.

Here is Thompson’s hour-long program:

  • Upon arrival, participants recorded their "secret” 1–10 rating of the book and wrote a summary of the novel in 10 words or less. They could do this individually or as a family. Everyone read their summaries aloud. (This idea came from a presentation Thompson saw at ALA Annual in New Orleans in 2018 called "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Reaching Kids and Families with Graphic Novel Programming," given by Natasha Forrester Campbell and Nicole Lee Martin.)
  • Thompson then read aloud a brief history of the Coretta Scott King Award, as well as the meaning of the CSK seal, from EMIERT's website.
  • The group watched a video of Jacqueline Woodson reading a poem from the book .
  • Book discussions ensued for about 25 minutes. The first question was  always, "What did you like about the book?" From there, the group discussed topics such as Woodson’s family, her desire to be a writer, race, racism, and what made the book special to each reader. Thompson utilized discussion questions she found in educator guides made available by Penguin Young Readers and various other organizations.
  • Following the discussion, she started an extension activity that the families could continue at home, either individually or as a family. The activity was to write a freeform autobiographical poem modeled on the first poem in the book. To get the children thinking about how to connect this poem to their own lives, they were given a family tree template and a timeline. The intent was to help them fill out their family history and important life events before starting to write the poem. Then, they could write their poem with the prompt "I am born," as the first poem in Brown Girl Dreaming begins. This is a weighty extension activity, so nobody finished during the program, but Thompson was hopeful they kept trying at home. She modeled the idea on numerous assignments and extension activities available online by other educators.
  • Before the families left, each person received a Coretta Scott King Award T-shirt, courtesy of ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services .
Thompson with participating families in their CSK Awards t-shirts.

The CSK committee has put together a webpage with resources, and program and activity ideas. A fact sheet, list of talking points, and templates for a press release and public service announcement are also available for libraries.

Any librarian who wants to participate should email Alan Bailey, CSK chair elect & chair of the programming committee, and cc diversity@ala.org so that the library will be recognized for participating in the 50-50 Initiative.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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