The Guild was founded in 1945 as a professional organization to serve the community by promoting high standards in children's literature and to encourage the love of good books. Today's active Guild members include established authors, illustrators, and specialists in the field as well as representatives of public and school library systems, bookstores, and educational and government organizations.

Over the years the Guild has initiated a number of projects, including Book Fairs (1950s) and the establishment of libraries in the District of Columbia's elementary schools (early 1960s.) The Guild, in connection with Montgomery College, sponsored seminars on children's literature for many years, and its Speakers Bureau recommends authors and illustrators for appearances at schools and book-related events. The Guild has sponsored seminars on writing and illustrating children's books with the Smithsonian Resident Associates and collaborated with the National Museum of Women in the Arts on an annual Festival of Books for families.

The Guild also established the Children's Book Guild Award for Nonfiction. This had its origins in 1977 when the Guild inaugurated an annual award "honoring an author or author-illustrator whose total work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children." From 1983 - 2009, The Washington Post co-sponsored the award.

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