To commemorate next year’s milestone anniversary of its EJK Award, created to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the children’s book industry and to promote multicultural representation, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is planning a yearlong celebration, complete with a series of virtual and in-person activities.
Named after the author-illustrator whose book The Snowy Day earned the Caldecott Medal in 1963, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has been actively promoting his work and children’s love of reading since the group’s inception in 1985.
“The EJK Foundation is proud that the EJK Award continues to be the mark of future success and inspiration for early career writers, illustrators, and young readers,” Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, said in a statement. “In celebrating this milestone anniversary, we are excited to offer a variety of materials and activities to spread awareness of Ezra’s message to build a future in which children see themselves in a world of equity and acceptance through the literature they grow up reading.”
Downloadable toolkits comprised of four discussion guides, 10 themed book lists, graphics, and background information on the awards are currently available for educators, librarians, parents, and students. Selected books have been categorized by themes such as strong girls, community, immigration, and first day of school. Developed by the anniversary leadership committee members and Eastern Michigan University professors Ramona Caponegro and Jacqueline LaRose, each guide features prompts that center on a diverse range of characters’ neighborhoods, cities, and rural settings. In addition, more than 15 participants from Estabrook Learning Community and Holmes Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Mich., provided discussion questions and activities.
Another important component of the anniversary programming is the Mock EJK Award program, available in both virtual and in-person formats. Librarians, educators, parents, and children can read, discuss, and evaluate a selection of eligible books and then host an award celebration. The EJK Foundation will also host a Mock EJK Award webinar on July 22. Rounding out the online toolkits, “fun facts about the lives of EJK award winners and honorees are also featured on the foundation’s website.
To provide the appropriate level of resources and leadership for the anniversary celebration, two committees comprised of publishers, librarians and advocacy organizers were assembled. The executive committee includes president of the University of Southern Mississippi Rodney Bennett; chief executives from the Brooklyn, Queens, and New York public libraries; representatives from Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, and Candlewick Press; and the heads of We Need Diverse Books and the Children’s Book Council. The advisory committee is made up of more than 60 authors and illustrators who have received EJK awards or honors, served as jurors on the EJK Award selection committee, and helped to promote the EJK award as in-person ambassadors and through social media.
“The group gathered is a testament to the impact the award has had on writers’ and illustrators’ lives as creators of inclusive children’s literature for more than a generation,” said Meg Medina, advisory committee member and Newbery Medalist.