ALSC Changes Wilder Award to Children's Literature Legacy Award

The renamed award has been recast to honor authors of “books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences."
The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)  board unanimously voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. The award will now be called the Children's Literature Legacy Award. "This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness," ALSC's website said after the its meeting at ALA Annual in New Orleans. Jacqueline Woodson, the 2018 honoree, will be the first to accept the award under its new name.

Jacqueline Woodson

In New Orleans, the historic vote was met with celebration and a little bit of disbelief. Debbie Reese, founder of American Indians in Children's Literature, tweeted from the meeting where the discussion and vote took place. After the board reviewed the task force's recommendations and discussion logistics, Reese's Twitter thread continued, "This is a historic moment for @wearealsc," she wrote. " A motion is being made to change the name of the award." "All in favor! Nobody opposed. Lot of tears!" "Tears of joy." Later in the thread, she wrote, "Tomorrow evening, I will joyfully be at the Newbery Banquet and hear Jacqueline Woodson receive the Children's Literature Legacy Award. Still in a state of disbelief!" "And so grateful, so very, very grateful to the people who brought this possibility forward, and to the task force, and to the @wearealsc board, for their thoughtful deliberation, and their vote to change the award name." The immediate reaction on Twitter appeared to be largely positive. Author Laurie Halse Anderson replied to Reese's twitter thread with a row of red hearts and many others reacted in similar fashion, expressing happiness or pride in their colleagues for the decision.
However, there were those who oppose the decision as well. One tweet suggested the award add "PC" for political correctness in its name. Matthew Ryan, whose profile identifies him as an English teacher, wrote, "Didn't wake up Sunday morning expecting to make a donation to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum. But ALSC's decision to strip Wilder's name from the children's literature award motivated me."
Reese noted she had already heard some backlash after the vote. Changing the name isn't the only move by the board related to the award. Reese tweeted the task force recommendations that were approved: Option 1, Part 1: Change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. "Option 1, Part 2: If the name of the award is changed, we recommended the award description be amended to include language that recognizes honorees for their "significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences." Option 1, Part 3, allows past recipients the option to be recognized under the new name. Option 2 was a recommendation to sunset the former Wilder Award and create a new award for  "significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences." The ALSC webpage for the award now reads: "Welcome to the Children's Literature Legacy Award home page! At its meeting on Saturday, June 23, 2018, the Association for Library Service to Children Board voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children's Literature Legacy Award. This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.  In the weeks following the ALA Annual Conference, these award webpages will be revised to reflect the new award name." Wilder herself was named the inaugural recipient of the award in 1954. It was not an annual honor until 2016. There is no word yet if the board will look at past recipients and whether they meet the new criteria. Beyond the obvious Wilder, Theodor S. Geisel (Dr. Seuss) won the award in 1980. There has been discussion about renaming the Geisel Award as well.
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John A. Bass

Why tho?? Why change anything?? Stop with this bull shit, racism shit! Leave these Awards as they are! You all are fking with our history! Stop! But still, no matter how much we bitch and moan, groan, grip and complain, her name is NO LONGER on the Medal they issue to an author-illustrator that has a legacy of contributing to children’s literature! The reason this Medal was created! — We will forever stand against this deluded decision from this board! It’s unheard of to do this to Laura! — With who is on their board, now I clearly see that they are the racist ones. — Now they are trying to “get back” at the innocent white Americans, like Laura! I can’t believe we are allowing this bull shit to happen!

Posted : Jul 06, 2018 09:29


Jean M

The more I read Comments discussions like this, and see how quickly people are willing to demonize their colleagues as racists, Neo-Nazis, and just plain evil for the crime of thoughtful disagreement, the happier I am that in the space of 24 hours, #walkaway has gained the influence it has. If we cannot read texts and understand the difference between description and prescription, then we all need a refresher class in fourth grade.

Posted : Jul 03, 2018 09:18

Debbie Reese

This SLJ article and others are in a curated set of links I am compiling at American Indians in Children's Literature: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/06/a-changethename-moment-laura-ingalls.html

Posted : Jul 03, 2018 09:18


Seriously???

[This comment has been removed because it violates this site’s comment policy: “Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.”]

Posted : Jul 01, 2018 03:20

Library Teacher

I have been a dues paying member of ALSC in the past, but over time have felt that my views haven't been represented by the group. There are many of us that have opinions that differ greatly from the opinions of ALSC as a whole. I felt it was waste of my money to support a group that didn't support me. As a librarian, my opinion against changing the name is just as valid as those whose opinion is that it should be changed. The tone of your post is exactly the reason I left ALSC. There is no civility.

Posted : Jul 01, 2018 03:20


So, in the counterfactual

... where Laura Ingalls Wilder had somehow anticipated that her settler characters would be judged for their attitudes (beyond the subtle judgment she herself made, for instance of Ma, at her own distance of time) - and placed current words into their mouths, shown Pa to be enlightened about the minstrel show, etc.: would the award still be named for her? If she had made her characters better on the page than they were in life, would you then be comfortable at the thought a librarian somewhere is placing her books in kid's hands, despite the falsity? Or is the subject of Anglo/German/Scandinavian settlement unsuitable for children unless written now, in 2018? Are primary sources generally, to be discouraged in the school setting? I am genuinely curious about how those in favor of such changes, want past people to be remembered. You, child, and me, librarian - good; past people like little Laura, born bad - your modern life, hard; her life, easy and uncomplicated - is a strange takeaway to me. It seems like it tends toward elevating hubris. But hasn't hubris, though not unmixedly-negative, been implicated in some bad acts?

Posted : Jun 28, 2018 08:35

Anony

Saving the best for last. Thank you, Counterfactual.

Posted : Jun 28, 2018 08:35


Tad Andracki

It is moments like this when I am proudest of my profession: when we live up to its promise. Names change all the time; statues and monuments topple; and who and what we choose to honor says something not only about our past but also our present. A point of note for many who have raised concerns that the award should have been sunsetted and a new award take its place: the ALSC Board of Directors did consider this option (http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/wildermedal/DOC%2025%20Award%20Program%20Review%20Task%20Force%20Wilder%20Award%20Recommendation.pdf). In addition to the disadvantages mentioned within this document, a "clean break" would seem, personally, like an attempt to dissociate from the fact that the award was ever the LIW award. A name change is messier, but it does not deny that ALSC has not always lived up to its core values—the history of this award is complex. The promise of children's librarianship is that every child can see themselves reflected, can know that they are held, can be told "you are enough." As a profession, we have not lived up to this promise consistently. This brings us one step closer. Brava, ALSC, for this historic change.

Posted : Jun 27, 2018 09:08

Shelley Quezada

Tad, the argument you present about making a "clean break" with the LIW is very sound. It would indeed have created confusion had the award been simply sunsetted . I also agree with Roger Sutton's observation that eventually the name of the new award will likely evolve into "The Legacy Award" and hopefully we can all move on. It was a courageous decision on the part of the ALSC board to make this change and reflects an issue that many of us who teach children's literature have brought up in our classes for a number of years. And finally, someone posted a recommendation on this list to take a look at the recently published Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. The biography is highly informative and provides great context for this discussion. I can heartily recommend Vivian Gornick's lengthy review published Dec. 1, 2017 in the New Republic "Little House, Small Government".

Posted : Jun 27, 2018 09:08


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