The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, voted on Saturday to strip the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a popular children’s book award, months after a task force set out to consider the long-running scholarly discussion around “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments” in the author’s work.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books have made “a significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature.” It will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
In announcing the task force in February of this year, ALA officials acknowledged that “Wilder’s legacy is complex” and that the author’s legacy may no longer be “consistent with the intention of the award named for her.”
On Monday, at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, ALA president Jim Neal and ALSC president Nina Lindsay released the following joint statement on the decision to make the change:
“Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have been and will continue to be deeply meaningful to many readers. 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.
“Wilder’s books are a product of her life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s. Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.
“ALSC works within the context of our society as a whole, where the conversations taking place inform our work and help us articulate our core values and support of diverse populations.
“Changing the name of the award should not be viewed as an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access to Wilder’s books and materials, but rather as an effort to align the award’s title with ALSC’s core values. This change should not be viewed as a call for readers to change their personal relationship with or feelings about Wilder’s books. Updating the award’s name should not be construed as censorship, as we are not demanding that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children. We hope adults think critically about Wilder’s books and the discussions that can take place around them.
“It also should be noted that changing the name of the ALSC award for significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature has no reflection on past winners or their achievements, and does not negate the honor they have received for making a ‘significant and lasting contribution to literature for children.’
“This decision was made after much consideration and fact-finding. It is one that we believe serves the best interests of ALSC and all of those they serve, not only now, in 2018, but also in the long-term.”