Kwame Alexander to receive second Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Oct. 22

October 12, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kwame Alexander, Newbery medalist and two-time winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, will receive his second national children’s poetry honor at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22. During the virtual presentation via Zoom, Alexander will speak about his writing and read from “How to Read a Book.”

Co-sponsored by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the online event will be hosted by Jury Chair Marjorie Maddox Hafer, who will introduce the jury and discuss their process for choosing the winner and honor books for 2020 before introducing Alexander. The public is encouraged to attend at   

A poet, educator and New York Times bestselling author of 32 books, Alexander will be presented with a commemorative plaque and $1,000 prize during the event, in celebration of his picture book “How to Read a Book,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.  

“Elegant, imaginative, and enticing,” wrote one juror for the award. “Kwame Alexander’s lush poetry is brought alive by Melissa Sweet’s neon-colored collages, and both blend into an exhilarating experience that reminds us of the intricacies and delights of how to read a book. This is one to be read and relished over and over again, word by word, morsel by morsel.”

Additionally, two books were awarded honors; “You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks,” written and illustrated by Evan Turk, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. 

The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award is named for the internationally renowned educator, poet, anthologist and passionate advocate of poetry for young people. Established in 1993, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was the first award of its kind in the United States. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Penn State University Libraries, and Lee Bennett Hopkins share joint administration of the annual award, which is selected by a panel of authors, librarians, teachers and scholars. Established in 1993, the winner of the award is selected each year by a panel of authors, librarians, teachers and scholars.

The 2020 judges for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award were Hafer, chair, author, professor of English and creative writing at Lock Haven University; Michelle F. Bayuk, Springfield, New Jersey; René M Rodríguez-Astacio, doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction, children's literature, Penn State; Junko Sakoi, teacher educator, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, Arizona; Bina Williams, Bridgeport Public Library, North Branch Librarian II, Youth Services, Wallingford Connecticut.

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book established in 1977 at the Library of Congress, encourages Pennsylvania’s citizens and residents to study, honor, celebrate and promote books, reading, libraries and literacy. In addition to the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, it also administers the Public Poetry Project, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel PrizePoems from LifeLetters about LiteratureA Baker’s Dozen: The Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy, and the interactive Literary & Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania.

For more information about the Hopkins Award, contact Caroline Wermuth at or 814-863-5472, or visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book website

Last Updated October 22, 2020