Sequoyah award

At some point during the school year, you might hear your child mention the Sequoyah Award and wonder what it's all about. As someone who has been involved in this long Oklahoma literary tradition, I'm happy to tell you more about it!

What is the Sequoyah Award?

Sequoyah, Cherokee for "Lame One," was the son of a Cherokee mother and a white trader father, who 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 in Alva, Oklahoma. That makes this award the third oldest in the nation!

The award categories are broken 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, plus a university representative who specializes 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 of nominated titles from which children may vote:

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

Each category lists 15 books on their Masterlists (16 on rare occasions), and the same book 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 in order to vote on their favorite. 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 children in 3rd through 5th grade
  • Intermediate Masterlist contains books appropriate for children in 6th through 8th grade
  • High School Masterlist contains books appropriate for children in 9th through 12th grade

The voting takes place in February of each year, either in the school library or online at the OLA Sequoyah web site. (Feel free to ask your librarian if you need a link for your child to vote!)

Sometimes, the authors of the winning books come to Oklahoma to receive their awards in person and meet the children who voted for their books.

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

Long Story Short:

The Sequoyah Award is a really cool award that honors an author who wrote a high-quality book that kids in Oklahoma love!

--Melody Palmer, Youth Librarian, South Broken Arrow Library