Sequoyah Award? What's That?

By Melody Palmer, Youth Librarian, South Broken Arrow Library and former Sequoyah Children's Team member

At some point during the school year, you might hear your child mention the Sequoyah Award, and wonder what it's all about. You know it has something to do with books and you're thrilled your child is reading, but you're also thinking, what is it, exactly?, who picks the books on the list?, how are the nominees chosen? 

I'm glad you asked!

What is the Sequoyah Award?

Sequoyah, Cherokee for "Lame One," was the son of a Cherokee mother and a white trader father. He was also known by his English name, George Guess. The Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) honors Sequoyah for his unique achievement in creating the Cherokee syllabry, the 86 symbols representing the different sounds in the Cherokee language.

The first Sequoyah Children's Book Award was given in April 1959 at Northwestern University at Alva, Oklahoma, making this award the third oldest in the nation. It's broken up into 3 groups: Children's, Intermediate, and High School.

Who Picks the Books?

There are three teams of librarians, one for each age group, comprised of an equal blend of school librarians and public librarians, with one additional university representative, all of whom specialize in the literature of each age range. Members of these teams serve a three-year term, read 150-250 books each year, and meet monthly to decide which books to keep on the list for the next year. They use the following criteria to create a Masterlist from which children may vote:

  • Literary merit
  • Originality
  • Timelessness
  • Factual accuracy
  • Clarity and readability
  • Age/Grade appropriateness of content & subject matter

Each group has 15 books on their respective Masterlist (16 on rare occassions), and books can be on more than one list. Members work to select diverse works so each child can find the minimum 3 books to read and enjoy. Various genres, reading levels, fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose are represented on the lists.

How Does Voting Work?

To vote, children must read at least 3 books on the list for their grade. They do not have to read all of them, though many schools have special awards for reading more than the required 3. 

  • Children's Masterlist contains books appropriate for readers in 3rd through 5th grade
  • Intermediate Masterlist contains books appropriate for readers in 6th through 8th grade
  • High School Masterlist contains books appropriate for readers in 9th through 12th grade

The voting takes place in February of each year, either in the school library or online. Feel free to ask your Youth Librarian if you need a link for your child to vote. Sometimes the author comes to Oklahoma to receive the award in person and meet the children who voted for their book.

The Tulsa City-County Library supports this award by purchasing extra copies of books on each list to allow more children to read the books and have a voice in selecting the winners. This promotes a lifelong love of reading by providing reading materials in a wide range of reading levels and genres.

Long Story Short

Sequoyah is a really cool award that honors authors who wrote high-quality books that kids love!

Check out all of the lists on the Oklahoma Library Association web site.

Add new comment