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Mock Keats Award Toolkit Available for Classroom Use Nationwide

Wed, 10/07/2020 - 08:42am | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

35th annual Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Award In celebration of the 35th annual Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Award honoring multicultural children’s books, educators across the country are encouraged to have their classrooms participate in a “Mock EJK Award,” where students will model the real EJK award by reading, discussing, and evaluating a selection of eligible books and selecting a book to be honored in a Mock EJK Award ceremony.

The Mock EJK Award program—available for both virtual and in-person settings—is a group activity that can be adapted for any age, from kindergarten through high school. It is encouraged that mock awards coincide with the real EJK Award ceremony announcement in March 2021, and the online toolkit found here has a timeline of lesson plans leading up to that ceremony. Once registered at this link, a list of eligible books for the program selection will be sent to the registrant.

The toolkit also includes:

  • Sample criteria and a sample voting process
  • Ideas for producing your remote Mock EJK Award Ceremony
  • Background materials about Ezra Jack Keats
  • An outline of the real EJK Award process
  • Art project ideasand clip art to use with your group
  • A Mock EJK Award Medallion for your use
  • Sample social media posts and graphics

A pre-recorded webinar is also available for educators’ use at this link. On the webinar you will find virtual and other tips from school and library experts on ways to run a successful program.

The EJK Book Award Ceremony began in 1986 in a branch of the New York Public Library as a way to honor early career creators of outstanding multicultural children’s picture books. Since 2012, the award is now presented on The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Hattiesburg campus at the annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, hosted by USM’s de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. Since its inception, 88 exceptional early career authors and illustrators have received EJK Awards and Honors for advancing diversity in children’s literature, including renowned bookmakers Meg Medina, Christian Robinson, Bryan Collier, and Sophie Blackall.

“This activity is entertaining and it teaches children to apply analytical thinking skills when examining books,” de Grummond Curator Ellen Ruffin said. “Children learn to look for line and design, color palettes used, creative interpretation by the illustrator, and the interdependence of text and illustration. There is much more to the work and skill of a picture book than they may realize until they imagine it.”

“The EJK Foundation is proud to see schools and libraries all over the country bringing the Mock EJK Award to young readers.” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation since 2002. “The experience empowers young readers to judge for themselves if a book reflects their world, or sparks their imagination. Ezra wanted children to know that books can and should reflect their lives with equity and a sense of belonging.”

About the Ezra Jack Keats Award

Co-produced by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi, the Ezra Jack Keats Award (for illustration, writing, and honors in both categories) was established to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children’s books. A distinguished selection committee of children’s literature and early childhood education specialists, librarians, authors and illustrators reviews the entries, seeking engaging books that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world.


About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, which protects and promotes the work of Ezra Jack Keats, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children’s publishing. has actively fostered children’s creativity and love of reading since 1985. The Foundation awards 70 EJK Mini-Grants annually to public schools and libraries, for arts and literacy programs across 50 states; administers the EJK Bookmaking Competition, for grades 3-12, in the nation’s largest school system for 34 years running; and with the EJK Award, has encouraged over 90 exceptional early career authors and illustrators to create children’s books that reflect our diverse culture. In celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the EJK Award in 2021, the Foundation is initiating  a year-long public awareness and educational campaign in June, 2020. To learn more visit


About the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection

The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection is one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature. Founded in 1966 by Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond, the Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,300 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000+ published books dating from 1530 to the present. The collection contains the works of many notable authors and illustrators including Randolph Caldecott, John Newbery, Kate Greenaway, H.A. and Margret Rey and Ezra Jack Keats .Researchers from across the United States and around the world visit the collection on a regular basis to study its extensive holdings. To learn more visit