Free books, storytelling to mark King milestone

2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, but metro Atlanta children will be getting the birthday gifts.

At the Coretta Scott King Book Fair on Wednesday at the Central Library downtown, kids with a library card in their own name from any municipality will receive a free copy of one of the prize-winning books from the last four decades.

That’s not all the free fun at this National Black Arts Festival-sponsored event.

After welcoming remarks at 10 a.m., children’s author Angela Shelf Medearis, author of “Dare to Dream: Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement,” will give a workshop on the late King Center leader and human rights activist. Medearis also will autograph free copies of her book.

At noon, Atlanta master storyteller Mama Koku will spin yarns. Throughout the fair, kids can also make bookmarks with Atlanta fabric artist Zelda Grant and have their face painted.

In 1969, two school librarians, realizing there was a void of recognition for African-American authors and illustrators of children’s books, launched the King Book Awards. More than 110 authors and illustrators have since been honored.

The NBAF has given away books to children for years as part of other family programming, but this year teamed with the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System to launch this special event around the King Book Awards.

The publishing company Scholastic is donating 100 copies each of 24 of its prize-winning titles, and book fair organizers hope no free copies will be left over on Wednesday.

Coretta Scott King Book Fair

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday. Free. Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Central Library, 1 Margaret Mitchell Square. 404-224-3464,