ALA Midwinter 2018

Board Action Update: the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

The Laura Ingalls Wilder award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.  It has been given since 1954, when the award was first conferred upon its namesake.  At first given every few years, it is now an annual award.

Tomorrow we will announce the 23rd recipient of this award.  With each award conferred, we honor the hard work and dedicated mastery that goes into creating exceptional literature for children.  Each individual honored presents a new standard for book creators to set their sights on, and an established body of work for children to enjoy for years to come.

As a member organization that seeks and holds up excellence in our honored award recipients, we also must examine ALSC and hold our structures accountable to our core values: including inclusiveness, integrity and respect, leadership, and responsiveness.

With this in mind, the ALSC Board recognizes that Wilder’s legacy is complex and that her work is not universally embraced.  It continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work.  The ALSC Board recognizes that legacy may no longer be consistent with the intention of the award named for her. The Board voted unanimously Saturday to establish a task force to explore the ALSC awards program within the context of our core values and our strategic plan, beginning with the Wilder Award. We have updated the “about” webpage for this award today to indicate this direction.

I will be assembling the task force swiftly and outlining a charge to provide recommendations in time to move forward with any potential changes to the 2019 award. The task force will then move on with thoughts on how to proceed with the rest of our awards program.  We recognize that in order to work consistently with our values, we must undertake an examination of our entire awards program, and that each of our awards may produce a different examination. The member task force will include or consult with a variety of stakeholders, including publishing colleagues, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within ALSC Implementation Task Force, expert colleagues from our sister ethnic affiliates, and others.  

The morning before our Board decision, we and other ALSC members and leaders listened to a powerful presentation from Dr. Janina Fariñas and Johanna Ulloa Girón MSW. They provided a continuum model for our work in libraries serving children who face chronic, and sometimes toxic stress presented by immigration, acculturation, deportation or detention, and microagression: stressors that many children face and are a reality in all of our communities.

This model suggests a path for ALSC’s examination of its awards program, upon which we’ve already embarked with yesterday’s decision: beginning with a critical examination of where we stand, “acknowledging and honoring” the stressors that children carry and “making it possible for them to reclaim their history,”  and working with culturally proficient colleagues to ultimately “respect and honor children’s families’ histories and resilience…[standing in] solidarity for the rights [of all children].”  This is a clear road toward ALSC’s vision, that our members “engage communities to build healthy, successful, futures for all children”

It is with this vision in mind that I so look forward to our youth media award announcements each year.  Tomorrow’s Wilder award recipient, and all of our award recipients, contribute to our ability to achieve this vision, as we roll up our sleeves to ensure we are doing this work with responsiveness, inclusiveness, integrity and respect.



  1. Laura Cowie

    Bravo for undertaking this review. You will likely get a lot of flak but please persist. My own experience? Couldn’t wait to share Wilder’s much loved books w my youngest daughter. Her dad was Dakota. When I started to reread them I suddenly saw this whole other side to the stories I thought I knew so well. My daughter’s dad’s family were the Indigenous people described in the books, Laura and her family were overwhelming their lands. It was a shock for me how blind I’d been to not link these perspectives. I had to stop reading the book to my girl beachside I couldn’t have her take in those images of her identity. Again, thank you for looking at this!

    1. Christine

      But you are OK with illegal immigrants sweeping in and taking over our lands? Sounds like you need to repatriate yourself to the third world nation of your choice. BTW, native peoples were no saints – it is the bravery, fortitude and spirit of the early pioneers who make it possible for you to be sitting in your comfortable home, or “beachside,” typing your anti-American drivel.

      1. Therese

        Interesting pushback Christine with lots of assumptions. While I am not sure how I feel about renaming the award, I am interested in the thinking Laurie provides.

  2. Pingback: ALSC Awards Program Review Update - ALSC Blog

  3. Jessie Haas

    “Now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”
    For that reason, and because it’s impossible to think of another writer for children who has achieved so much or had such an impact, I ask that you leave the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award alone.
    We can’t be her. She can’t come forward to say any more to us than she’s already said, or be someone who lives in these times. Let’s move forward, write our own tales, and name the next award for some author whose life and work are pure and without stain, insofar as we currently understand stain. Meanwhile we can hop and pray and strive to write anywhere near as well as this flawed woman, edited by a flawed and difficult daughter.
    And while I haven’t received the presentations you have, I do wonder if the issue of censorship came up anywhere. Isn’t this a form of censorship?

  4. Terri Swerzler

    Jessie Haas said it all and did very well. By taking away the name of this award you once again remove an American hero complete with flaws.

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