Hundreds of new books for young people are published every year. Choosing a book for your child or teen at your local library or bookstore can be very confusing. There are a number of awards given annually to young people’s books for outstanding writing and illustration. These awards can help you to choose a great book for your child. Keep in mind that many terrific books are overlooked by award committees and do not receive an award. And, an award does not guarantee that your child or teen is going to love a book. Your best bet is to use the books at your public library as a taste sampling for your kids. Bring a variety of books home and try them out. If your young child asks you to read the book over and over, or your pre-teen takes a book on the school bus and into the bathroom to read, then you know this is an author whose books you may want to purchase.

The Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC) of the American Library Association (ALA) gives out a number of awards to the authors and illustrators of children’s books. The ALA’s website,, offers a complete listing of current and past awards. The Caldecott and Newbery Medals are the most prestigious awards given to young people’s books in the United States. Most libraries and bookstores will have a specific section where they stock the Caldecott and Newbery Medal winning books.

  • The Newbery Medal was named in tribute to John Newbery (1713-1767), the first English publisher of children’s books. Established in 1922, it was donated by Publisher’s Weekly editor Frederic Melcher and is given annually to honor the author who has written the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature published in the United States. The author must be an American citizen or resident, and the book must be published in the year preceding the award. The book honored is usually a novel. A number of “runner-up” honor books are also named. Occasionally, one of the honor books stands up to the test of time far better than the medal book of that year.
  • The Caldecott Medal, established by Melcher in 1937, is named in honor of nineteenth century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is given to an illustrator who is an American citizen or resident for the most distinguished contribution to picture book illustration in a book published the preceding year in the United States.
  • The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to an African-American author and an African-American illustrator whose books make an outstanding inspirational and educational contribution to children’s literature. Given annually by the ALSC and the Social Responsibilities Roundtable, the awards are a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
  • The Pura Belpré Award is named after the first Latina librarian from the New York Public Library. It is given to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. Established in 1996, it is given by the ALSC and National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.
  • The Michael L. Printz Award is an award given for excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a librarian from Topeka, Kansas, who actively supported and promoted literature for young adults and is given by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the ALA.

The Boston Globe newspaper and The Horn Book Magazine, a terrific bimonthly journal that features articles and reviews of children’s books, also honor a number of books every year. The Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, established in 1967, are given annually for excellence in literature for children and young adults and are highly coveted awards. The awards are given in three categories: Picture Book; Fiction and Poetry; and Nonfiction. Honor Books are also named in each category. You can find out about current and past winners on The Horn Book website

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance