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Spotlight on Awards that Highlight Multicultural Books

By Karen Hildebrand
CBC Diversity

Not only is it important to find stories that portray a myriad of identities to which children can relate and to cultivate these stories to execute the most authentic voice that will ring true, it is also important to send these tales out into the marketplace with their best foot forward, supported by the sales and marketing teams at houses and reviewed by critics in the industry to gain maximum exposure. One way to gain exposure for these books is with awards.

Below you’ll find three awards highlighted, but there are many more awards that celebrate and “recognize children’s and young adult literature titles that portray an authentic image of a racial, ethnic or religious group; or promote social justice and peace”, according to the National-Louis University Library who have curated a list of just such awards. Cynthia Leitich Smith also provides a wonderful list of children’s literature awards, many of which are specifically for books that focus on diversity in its many forms.

Notable Books for a Global Society Book Award from The International Reading Association’s Children’s Literature and Reading SIG (Special Interest Group)

Karen Hildebrand: Ohio Library and Reading Consultant and Global Literature Instructor

Being aware of diversity issues includes knowing where to find good resources. The Notable Books for a Global Society Book Award list is a great starting place. Each year since 1996 the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of IRA has sponsored this award. Twenty-five outstanding trade books that cross genres and deal with many issues of diversity, including topics discussed in previous posts on the CBC Diversity Blog, are selected from the current publishing year. Not only does the NBGS list feature many books from small presses that may not have caught the masses’ attention, but the NBGS list provides a starting place as school libraries and classrooms build book sets that create visibility for often under-represented groups of children and young adult readers.

Our goal within the NBGS Book Award is to celebrate these wonderful books and provide something for everyone because the list ranges from K-12. Our definition of global is very broad and includes race, gender, physical and mental challenges, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, values, culture and life styles. Our criteria guides the selection so that not only are we looking for good writing that elicits response and discussion, but we look how prejudices, biases, stereotypes, and cultural issues are handled within the storyline. What children read contributes to constructing who they are and what they can become so we want to present books that help readers find themselves and discover others.

The Children’s Africana Book Awards

The Children’s Africana Book Awards are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S. The awards were created by the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa. The awards are presented in two categories: Young Children and Older Readers.

The Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) are given under the auspices of the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association, a non-profit corporation founded in 1957 and open to all persons and institutions interested in African affairs. The Outreach Council aims to share and disseminate resources about Africa; exchanges experiences on best practices in conducting outreach activities; serves as the ASA membership in educating the public about Africa; and facilitates the exchange of ideas, information and research findings on Africa.

Lambda Literary LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Award

The Lambda Literary Awards (Lammys) are awarded yearly to works of literature containing significant content relevant to LGBT lives. These 22 awards are provided by the Lambda Literary Foundation whose mission is to, “nurture, celebrate, and preserve LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers”.

Out of the 22 awards the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Award focuses solely on books (Fiction, nonfiction, picture books, poetry, and anthologies) whose audience is young readers.

Along with the 22 book awards the Lambda Literary Foundation bestows, it also recognizes authors with three author awards — the Debut Fiction Award, the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, and the Pioneer Award.

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