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Sequoyah Award

The Sequoyah Children's Book Award

  The Sequoyah Children's Book Award is an annual award given to an author and chosen by Oklahoma's students.  The award was first given in April, 1959, making the award the third oldest children's choice award in the nation.  Each year, reading teams (made up of Oklahoma Library Association members) read hundreds of books for children, looking for selections that represent the wide variety of excellent books in children's literature.  The masterlist is usually comprised of 13-18 books of varying reading levels.  The list is published in the spring so that librarians can order the books for the next school year.  Students in third through fifth grade who have read or listened to three or more books from the Children's Masterlist are eligible to vote for a favorite.  Library media specialists from across the state collect ballots from eligible students and submit those votes to the Oklahoma Library Association through its website.  Votes are due each year by March 15.  The wining book is announced in April and the author is invited to the annual conference of the Oklahoma Library Association to accept the award.                                                                 (Click here to see this year's Masterlist)

Criteria for Masterlist Selection

In order for a book to be eligible to appear on the Masterlist, the author must be living in the United States.  The book has to have been published at least three years before the award date and have received at least one positive review.  Other criteria for selection include:  literary merit, originality, timelessness, factual accuracy, clarity, readability, and subject matter that is of interest to the appropriate age group.

Who was Sequoyah?

Sequoyah (his English name was George Guess) was a Cherokee Indian who is celebrated, admired and remembered for creating a syllabary for the Cherokee language.  The syllabary contains 86 symbols that represent the different sounds in the Cherokee language.  Sequoyah was born around 1776 in the village of Tuskeegee in Tennessee.  His father, Nathaniel Guess (or Gist) was a fur trader and his mother, Wut-Teh, was the daughter of a Cherokee chief.  Sequoyah (meaning "Lame One") is believed to have been in a hunting accident at the age of 9.  Though a silversmith by trade, Sequoyah was interested in creating a writing system for the Cherokee people.  In 1821, after working on the syllabary for 12 years, Sequoyah and his daughter, Ayoka introduced the syllabary to the Cherokee people.  Within a few months, thousands of Cherokees became literate.

Sequoyah moved from Tennessee to Arkansas, where he owned land and operated a salt production and silversmith operation.  In 1828, he travelled to Washington D.C. with a delegation of Arkansas Cherokee to negotiate a treaty for the exchange of lands in Arkansas for land in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).  Following his trip to Washington D.C., Sequoyah traded his Arkansas land for land in Indian Territory (Sequoyah County, Okahoma).  He built a one-room cabin near Sallisaw, Oklahoma in 1829, which still stands today as a historic site.

A statue of Sequoyah is one of the two representing Oklahoma in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.  For his tireless work to promote literacy among the Cherokee and among other Native Americans, the Oklahoma Library Association remembers and honors Sequoyah through the Sequoyah Book Award.