This award honors Mildred L. Batchelder, a former executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children, a believer in the importance of good books for children in translation from all parts of the world. She began her career working at Omaha (NE) Public Library, then as a children's librarian at St. Cloud (MN) State Teachers College, and subsequently as librarian of Haven Elementary School in Evanston, IL. She eventually joined the ranks of the American Library Association in 1936. Batchelder spent 30 years with ALA, working as an ambassador to the world on behalf of children and books, encouraging and promoting the translation of the world's best children's literature. Her life's work was "to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages."
According to Mildred L. Batchelder, children in all countries should have good books in translation from many parts of the world for these reasons:
- children of one country who come to know the books and stories of many countries have made a beginning toward international understanding;
- knowing the classic stories of a country creates an attitude for understanding towards the people for whom that literature is a heritage;
- children, who know they are reading in translation the same stories which children in other countries are reading, develop a sense of nearness with those in other lands; and
- interchange of children's books between countries through translation enhances communication between the peoples of those countries, and, if the books chosen for traveling from language to language are worthy books, the resulting communication is deeper, richer, more sympathetic and more enduring. (from "Translations of Children's Books" by Mildred L. Batchelder in MINNESOTA LIBRARIES, Autumn, 1972, pp. 307-15).
This award, established in her honor in 1966, is a citation awarded to a United States publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originating in a country other than the United States and in a language other than English and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States during the preceding year.ALSC gives the award to encourage US publishers to seek out superior children's books abroad and to promote communication among the peoples of the world.
As of 1979 the award has been given annually to a publisher for a book published in the preceding year. Before 1979, there was a lapse of two years between the original publication date and the award date; to convert to the new system, two awards were announced in 1979: one for 1978 and one for 1979. Beginning in 1994, honor recipients were selected and announced as well. In a year that the committee is of the opinion that no book of that year is worthy of the award, none is given. The award is decided on and announced at the Midwinter Meeting of ALA, and the winning publisher receives a citation and commemorative plaque. The presentation used to be made on April 2, International Children's Book Day, but is now given at the ALA Annual Conference held each summer.