Javaka Steptoe Visits Westside's Lower School

At Westside School we have been working on building an enduring understanding of social justice and honoring diversity amongst our community.

During Black Lives Matter Week of Action (be sure to check out the BLM Week of Action Blog Post!), Black History Month, and beyond, students have been celebrating the work of different Black artists including everyone from Duke Ellington to Jimi Hendrix. 

On February 24, 2021, we invited artist and educator, Javaka Steptoe, to present to our Lower School students from pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade. Mr. Steptoe has written more than a dozen award-winning books for young readers, including 2017 Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Illustrator award winner Radiant Child. As an artist, Javaka Steptoe incorporates everyday objects to create intricate collages. As a writer, he focuses on the importance of family and reflection. 

Javaka Steptoe on zoom with students asking questions

Mr. Steptoe talked about his books, the process, and his inspiration. He also talked about how to create collages and how to come up with ideas for writing. His advice to students: “Do the things you love. Happiness is contagious.”

At the end, students were quick to ask compelling and thought-provoking questions:

  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • What do you like better, writing or illustrating?
  • What do you think of Black Lives Matter?
  • What is next?
Students Drawing during Javaka Steptoe Presentation
  • “I loved when he showed us the collage with the puppies.” – Kindergarten student
  • “It was so cool.” - 1st grade student
  • “I want to be an artist and make collages as beautiful as his.” – 2nd grade student

Feelings inspired by Mr. Steptoe’s story and equipped with some new creative tools to explore, students finished their day with their own creations.

student drawings compared to Javaka's Book Covers

We are so thankful to Mr. Steptoe for providing this incredible opportunity for our Westside students. Find out more about Javaka Steptoe here and be sure to check out his collection of books

Javaka Steptoe’s Recent Awards:

  • 2017 Caldecott Award for Radiant Child
  • 2017 NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Literary Work – Children for Radiant Child
  • 2017 ALA Coretta Scott Award for Radiant Child
  • 2011 The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor Book for Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow
  • 2011 Bookbinder's Guild of New York, New York Book Show award winner for Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow
  • 2010 New York Times Bestseller for Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow
  • 2009 Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center Peeks Program, The Creative Process Residency
  • 2007 Humanities Washington Grant The Creative Process (Arts and Education)
pre-Kindergarten students watching a presentation by Javaka Steptoe