When Dr. Pauletta Brown Bracy was announced the recipient of the 2019 Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Wash., it seemed as if her journey had come full circle. Bracy, professor of library science and director of the Office of University Accreditation at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), previously served as chair of the jury of the Coretta Scott King Award for the ALA, but her journey and passion for children’s literature began before the awards and recognition.
Bracy grew up in a home where reading and literature were prominent. Her parents relocated frequently as they both worked in higher education, but they instilled in her the importance of education and reading. Her mother enrolled her in reading clubs, and she began receiving monthly book subscriptions to her home and often served as a library reader.
After graduating from high school, she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University and began a graduate degree program in library science at the University of Pennsylvania. While in the graduate program, Bracy enrolled in a children’s literature course that sparked her interest in the genre. The course helped her develop a keen eye for detail and taught her to view literature through the eyes of a critic and not just as a consumer.
“I began to interpret literature differently and became a critic. I was now reading with a purpose,” said Bracy.
Upon receiving her graduate degree, Bracy worked as a middle school librarian in Pittsburgh Public Schools, began establishing a rapport with students and hosted book talks and other activities for students.
“Being able to immerse myself in the literature, while also teaching young children helped shape my area of interest and developed my passion for seeing African Americans represented in literature,” Bracy shared.
Bracy later completed her Ph.D. in library science from the University of Michigan and began her career at NCCU as an assistant and associate professor in the School of Library and Information Sciences (SLIS). Serving as a SLIS professor, allowed Bracy to witness firsthand the areas she wanted to develop within the school. After students showed an interest in becoming school and public librarians within children’s departments, she developed a course titled “Ethnic Materials for Children and Young Adults,” and focused on training the next generation of librarians.
“Over the years, I have dedicated my teachings and research to focus on the ethnic perspectives and African-American experiences in children’s literature. It became apparent to me that the historical and biographical representation of African-American culture and experience was woefully lacking because we needed more practitioners of color in the field,” continued Bracy.
Bracy has co-organized NCCU’s “Celebrating Our Voices: Black Children’s Literature Symposium and Book Festival,” and continues to serve as a thought leader in the literature community and in the local community. She also continues to inspire students to read with a purpose and make an impact in children’s literature. She was nominated by a group of her former NCCU students for the prestigious lifetime achievement award.
She will be presented with the award, a medal and a monetary gift during the Coretta Scott King Annual Awards Breakfast on June 23, 2019.