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The Social Justice Literature Award

Social Justice Literature Award logo

ILA’s Literacy and Social Responsibility Special Interest Group (L-SR SIG) is pleased to announce winners in The Social Justice Literature Award, presented first in 2013. The inaugural committee was co-chaired by Carolyn Cook, Kenny Fasching-Varner, and Aimee Rogers. See our Leadership section to identify chairs for the next award cycle.

This award is presented to honor books that address social responsibility towards individuals, communities, societies, and/or the environment as well as invite reflection and socially responsible action by the reader.

Winning books are recognized at ILA’s annual conference as part of the L-SR SIG Program. Additionally, the books are featured on our website with links to the authors/illustrators and publishers and other information such as reviews of the books and suggestions for classroom use. Click on the link naming the book title for the detailed information. Click on the year for the top of the page with all winners listed.

Winners List



Fiction Picturebook:
The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (Candlewick Press)

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh (Roaring Brook)

Nonfiction Picturebook:
Write to Me by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao (Charlesbridge)

You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki (Bloomsbury)

2018 Fiction Picturebook:
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quietby Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Scholastic Press)

Fiction Novel:
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (Roaring Brook)

Nonfiction Picturebook:
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Candlewick Press)

Fred Korematsu Speaks Upby Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrated by Yutaka Houlette (Heyday)
2017 Fiction Picturebook:
Splashdance by Liz Starin (Farrar Strau Giroux)

Fiction Novel:
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami (Groundwood Books)

Nonfiction Picturebook:
Growing Peace: A Story of Farming, Music, and Religious Harmony by Richard Sobol (Lee & Low Books Inc.)

Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace (Calkins Creek)

Voice of Freedom: FannieLou Hamer -- Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford (Candlewick)

Watch Out for Flying Kids: How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree)

Paper Thingsby Jennifer Richard Jaobson (Candlewick)

The Color Thief: A Family's Story of Depression by Andrew and Polly Peters (Albert Whitman & Company)


Children Growing Up with War by Jenny Matthews (Candlewick Press)

Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo (Lee & Low Books)

Lend a Handby John Frank (Lee & Low Books)

Voices from the March on Washingtonby J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon (Lucky Sky Press)


The Garden of My Imannby Farhana Zia (Peachtree)

Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby and illustrated by Suana Verelst (Kids Can Press)

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kidsby Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books)


The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo Kittinger and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez (Peachtree)

Summer on the Moon by Adrian Fogelin (Peachtree)

A committee of eight SIG members who are education and literature professionals select the books. Letters are sent to publishers to submit books that meet the criteria. Members read and vote on the books. The top books are discussed electronically and a final vote is taken, with no more than 10% of the total books submitted for consideration in a given year selected annually. Interested individuals may submit suggestions for a book to be considered, and the nomination is complete when the publisher sends copies to each member of the committee.

Criteria for the Award

Selected books include picture books and non-picture books, with poetry, narrative, and nonfiction titles appropriate for each category. Books selected for a given year must be published in the United States by the end of the preceeding year (so 2020 books were published in 2019). They must meet the following criteria:

  • Strong Literary and Artistic Qualities, including but not limited to:
    • Fostering respect and understanding of a diverse population
    • Promoting equity, justice, peace, and/or social responsibility
    • Presenting social issues in their complexity
    • Addressing social responsibility towards individuals, communities, societies, and/or the environment
  • Reader Response:
    • Appealing to the intended audience
    • Inviting reflection and socially responsible action by the reader
    • Analyzing causes of injustice and revealing alternatives and/or challenges to the injustice, opening the imagination to other possibilities



© The Literacy and Social Responsibility SIG of the International Literacy Association

Kaye West, Ph.D., Website Manager
Date Modified: February 10, 2020 - Feedback

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