Monday, January 18, 2010

Who wins the Coretta Scott King Book Awards - a look at stats from 1970 to 2010

This year marks the 41st annual Coretta Scott King Award for outstanding books for children and young adults by an African American author. The annual illustrator award was added in 1974. Congratulations to the 2010 winners!

For the last three or so years, I've been updating an Excel spreadsheet about the past winners. Why? As a self-published children's book author, I've wondered if the CSK judging committee will ever be open to self-published authors or illustrators. I've not noticed any among the CSK winners list. I've also noticed that many CSK winners and honor recipients are in fact ... repeat winners. It's actually become fun to predict who the current year's winners may be based on which past winner has a new book out. Fifty percent (3 out of 6) of this year's recipients, including the Lifetime Achievement award, went to past CSK winners.

Are there so few talented and marketable African American authors and illustrators of children's and young adult literature that one award committee must dip into the well repeatedly? The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has tracked U.S. children's books by and about people of color since 1994. In 2008, the CCBC said there were 83 African American authors or illustrators published (or at least in the books they tracked). This was an increase of 7.8% over 2007. There are a host of African American children's book authors and illustrators - many not counted in traditional studies or reviewed in traditional kid's lit literature.

So - who wins a Coretta Scott King Book Award? I've categorized each winner since 1970: what year won, male/female/couple, author or illustrator, which award, publisher, birth year, age when prize won. Variables that I do not have: who was on the judging committee, genre of the winners, retail or wholesale sales, whether Publishers Weekly reviewed the book, or Accelerated Reader points for the various books. I also don't have an indicator if the winner of a picture book was paired with a past CSK winner. An example of this includes when an author of a picture book wins for the first time with a book that was illustrated by a previous CSK winner.

Here's what I've learned about the CSK Book Awards 1970 - 2010
  • Black women are slightly more likely to win ... 122 or 49.6% of all CSK award recipients have been female.
  • 43% of all CSK award recipients have been African American female authors
  • 66% of the Black male winners/honorees have been Illustrators
  • 7% of all CSK award recipients have been teams or couples
On the subject of repeat winners ....
  • 52% of the 246 total Coretta Scott King awards given since 1970 have gone to recipients who have receive four or more awards!
  • 23 folks have won more than four Coretta Scott King awards: 12 authors and 11 illustrators
  • 71 out of the 152 author awards have gone to the same 12 African American authors. This is no disrespect to these fine folks or their body of literature - but put another way - nearly 1 in 2 Coretta Scott King author awards (46.7%) have gone to the same twelve folks. Does the United States of America really publish such few potential award-winning Black kid's lit authors?!
  • On the illustrator front, 57 out of 94 illustrator awards have gone to the same 11 Black illustrators. Put another way... 60.6% of all Coretta Scott King awards for illustration have gone to the same 11 folks.
  • Painting a more detailed picture.... 23 illustration awards have gone to the same talented four illustrators: Jerry Pinkney, Ashley Bryan, and the team of Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. That's 1 in 4 CSK illustrator awards!
Getting a Coretta Scott King Book Award undoubtedly has a positive influence on sales and library placements. Today the winners were announced. At this moment, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's CSK winning "Bad News for Outlaws" is 1,465 on Amazon sales rank. Just don't look for the CSK Book Award to be one to showcase many new authors or illustrators ... to venture beyond traditional publishing houses to self-published creators or small presses.

I doubt the CSK Book Awards will innovate the children's book category by embracing new publishing technologies .... who are the award-winning African American kid's lit authors and illustrators of eBooks or graphic novels or series. To be honest, I look to sources like the Brown Bookshelf for innovations and variety - can't wait to see what the 2010 28 Days Later campaign will bring to the world of African American children's and young adult literature.

I am grateful for the Coretta Scott King Book awards for its forty plus years of showcasing Black authors and illustrators. I just wish there were more!

20 comments:

Terry Doherty said...

Wow! These are fascinating statistics ... sobering in fact. It is both surprising and disappointing to see that the award is not as inclusive as it might be.

Peggy said...

Very informative and insightful. Thank you.

Linda Jo Martin said...

Fascinating analysis... I can see you're right on top of the situation. I hope someday your books will win.

Anonymous said...

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CLewis

Iya said...

You are truly a researcher par excellence, Kyra. It is apparent that members of the CSK committee are not aware of the varied sources of new African-American illustrators and authors.

Your stats are certainly enlighten-ing, and something the CSK committee should investigate. Hopefully they will this blog and be encourage to "reach beyond".

Camille said...

I am thrilled that our kidlitosphere friend, Tanita Davis, won an CSK honor for Mare's War!

M. LaVora Perry said...

This is an eye-opening, Kyra. Thanks for taking the time to conduct such thorough research. To me, it shows that we can't wait for the powers that be. We've got to be the power behind making sure our books are well-written, ready for the world, get published, and get noticed.

LaVora
www.mlavoraperry.com

zettaelliott said...

I think I wrote this same comment last year, but I do think awards committees have a great deal of influence on the publishing industry. IF the CSK committee were to institute a new rule (an author/illustrator can only win *one* award every three years--maybe excepting the John Steptoe New Talent Award) then publishers would be forced to put new talent forward in order to win the coveted awards. Right now, award-winning authors and illustrators are virtually guaranteed additional projects, heightened visibility, and increased sales, which means publishers have less incentive to take a chance on a new artist. I've defended and admired the CSK awards, but I, too, am tired of the "big fish/small pond" syndrome in publishing and would love to see the CSK committee actively engage in transforming the industry. We can achieve true excellence once we widen the field...

Anonymous said...
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Kelly said...

Important information, Kyra. Thanks so much for compiling the stats and sharing them. I support and appreciate the CSK Awards. But I love when I see a new name on the list.

Jessica Leader said...

I was just going to chime in with the word 'fascinating,' but I see I've been beaten to the punch. Still, I *did* find the nubmers fascinating and thought-provoking.

In terms of whether the committee is looking at too small a pool of potential winners, it might be interesting to go back to the starred books in years where there were repeat winners and see if standouts got slighted. That might be a good indicator as to whether the repetition is a result of lack of awareness of good writing or too small a pool of writers to consider...not that you need to spend time tickling anyone else's research fancies!

Creations By Toni said...

Very informative and along with some of the rest, "fascinating" facts. I was disappointed to see not much room for self published writers. Thanks for the information

Ebony Haywood said...

change is gonna come... :)

Megan Abrahams said...

Very revealing research and analysis. It would be interesting to interview member(s) of the CSK award committee to get their position on this. Glad to find your blog through the Kidlitosphere.

Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

Thx 4 the stats, Ive had the fortune to mt some of these talented illustrators and I was humbly in awe of their knowledge and talent. In the same breath, with the same respect....Im comin for that number 1 spot.May take 2 decades, but here I come.
-Rob

方大同Jason said...
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tanita davis said...

Ages later, I happen upon your list...

Another thing I noticed was the subject matter of the winning books, at least this year: across the board, historical fiction.

I felt that the books which were awarded were truly good, and am grateful that I was one chosen to be honored. But I do wish that there was less emphasis on history...

Some really interesting stats - thanks for the work in compiling them.

jan godown annino said...

This is fascinating reading Kyra. Many thanks!

Audrey said...

I was just rereading this this timely (anew) post. Those statistics really do boggle the mind. Here's hoping for some more new names this year.