Press Release: For Educators - Call for Mini-Grant Proposals

Posted 10/23/2018

Sheree Wichard

2019 Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant Program Call for Proposals

Nearly $1,000,000 Given Directly to Educators at Public Schools and Libraries Across the Country since 1987

With 2018 EJK Mini-Grants: Puppets Help Teach Tolerance and Diversity to Students in Queens, NY; Kenosha Public Library in WI Channels the Civic Pride of the Citizens of Kenosha

NEW YORK—October 23, 2018—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, dedicated to supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries across the country, is putting out its annual call for proposals from educators nation-wide.

Approximately 70 grants, up to $500 each, will be awarded to teachers and librarians in public schools and libraries whose proposals reflect imagination and a desire to make learning fun. Applications are being accepted now, and the deadline for submissions is March 31, 2019. Decisions will be emailed to all applicants in May, allowing educators to plan for the next academic year.

“For over three decades, it has been our privilege to support the vision of the most innovative teachers and librarians, who inspire students to read joyfully, think creatively and support one another with generosity,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “I encourage all educators who want to put their creativity and new ideas into action to go online and apply for an EJK Mini-Grant now.”

Since 1987, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has provided nearly $1,000,000 in support of EJK Mini-Grant programs spanning the 50 states and U.S commonwealths. To learn more about EJK Mini-Grants, and to see the criteria for application, visit Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grants.

The Foundation welcomes Mini-Grant proposals focusing on any subject. Following are examples of two outstanding 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant programs.

High School Students Become “Muppet-teers” to Embrace Their Diverse Culture

With an EJK Mini-Grant, teachers from the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Queens, NY bought art supplies for a “Muppet” Unit focused on diversity and tolerance. (L), a student and her hand-made puppet. *Photo by Stefanie Abbey*. The Kenosha Public Library in Kenosha, WI used their EJK Mini-Grant to create “We Are Kenosha,” a community art project. A participant showed their civic pride with a watercolor of the Kenosha Lighthouse (R), located at the edge of Lake Michigan.

An Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant made it possible for teachers at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Queens, NY to fund a “Muppet” Unit focused on diversity and tolerance for four Visual Arts classes. Taught collaboratively by art teacher Stefanie Abbey and librarian Eve Davis, the Unit helped students gain an understanding of people and cultures other than their own while also giving students basic sewing skills.

After watching samples of shows highlighting the “Muppets” diversity, students were asked to sketch their own “Muppets” and develop diversity-related backstories. Then, students learned various sewing stitches and used a pattern to cut the pieces of their “Muppet,” combined cardboard, foam and felt to create movable mouths and fashioned wire hangers into rods for “Muppet” arms.

The completed “Muppets” and “Muppet” Shows were shared with the greater community and displayed at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety’s annual Festival of the Arts, which was held at the end of the Spring semester.

Says Davis, “The ‘Muppets’ Unit had a wonderful effect on our students. An 11th grader, an immigrant from Guyana, told us: ‘I will treat people that are diverse with respect and care. They are more special and I want them to see that’.”

Abbey said, “The ‘Muppets’ Unit sometimes had unexpected positive changes on our students. A teacher told me that sewing calmed one of her hyper students so much that she instructed that student to always bring sewing to her class.”

Added Abbey, “Without the $500 Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant, we could never have offered the costly supplies needed to make the ‘Muppets’”, which ultimately had such a positive impact on our school community.”

For the Love of Community

With their EJK Mini-Grant, the Kenosha Public Library in Kenosha, WI embarked upon a three-month community-wide collaborative art project called “We Are Kenosha.” The goal was to reach beyond existing library users in the hopes of learning more about Kenosha residents who do not possess a library card.

The Kenosha Public Library partnered with 16 organizations, local businesses, schools and other community groups, and asked each to host a “We Are Kenosha” ballot box for a period of three months. Each organization received a ballot box (donated by Uline, a local business), along with an instructional sign, a plastic container with index cards, markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pencil sharpeners, which were all purchased using their EJK Mini-Grant. The materials and collection boxes were put in visible areas to which the public had easy access.

The premise was simple: citizens of Kenosha passing by the ballot boxes were asked to respond to three questions: Who are you? What is important to you? What do you love about Kenosha? Responses were only limited by a participant’s imagination!

Says librarian Heather Thompson, “We had more than 200 participants engage in the ‘We Are Kenosha’ project. We heard from and learned about citizens we do not typically reach, such as inmates at the Kenosha County Detention Center. The project allowed our citizens to share beautiful and meaningful artwork, thoughts and beliefs with others across the city.”

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Founded by Ezra Jack Keats, one of America’s greatest children’s book authors and illustrators, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation fosters children’s love of reading and creative expression by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries through the EJK Bookmaking Competition and MIni-Grant program; cultivates new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books that reflect the experience of childhood in our diverse culture through the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award; and protects and promotes the work of Keats, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children’s publishing.

The Snowy Day was adapted by Amazon as a holiday special, which earned two Daytime Emmys®, including Outstanding Preschool Children’s Animated Program; and was used as the subject of a set of Forever stamps issued by and still available from the United States Postal Service. To learn more about the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, visit
Keats. Imagination. Diversity.