The name of one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time is being stripped from a major children’s literature award.
Awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal was a lifetime achievement award for authors who made substantial and lasting contributions to children’s literature. However, the award has been renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder’s books have been deemed to contain inappropriate comments about Native Americans and African Americans.
“Although Wilder’s work holds a significant place in the history of children’s literature and continues to be read today, ALSC has had to grapple with the inconsistency between Wilder’s legacy and its core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness through an award that bears Wilder’s name,” said Nina Lindsay and Jim Neal in an American Library Association press release. “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”
Based in De Smet, South Dakota, where Wilder lived for 15 lives, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society fought the name change unsuccessfully.
“They’re going to start rethinking all of these things, and then our libraries will have no books left,” Tessa Flak, a member of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, told KELO-TV. “When Laura is talking about this in her stories, you have to remember it was a different time, place, and culture. Laura’s talking about her childhood in the 1880s, 1890s. It’s not today.”
Since Laura Ingalls Wilder was awarded the initial literary prize medal in 1954, 22 other recipients have been honored, including E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, Dr. Seuss, and Tomie DePaola. The 2018 winner was Jacqueline Woodson. Her best-known work is the young adult novel Miracle’s Boys.