About the Award
Administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, 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. Winners are announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and are honored at the Annual Conference in June. The recipient receives a bronze medal and presents an acceptance speech. The award may be given posthumously.
The first award was given to its namesake in 1954. Thereafter, the ALSC Board established an ongoing award to recognize the lifetime achievement of a children’s author and/or illustrator.
Between 1960 and 1980, the Wilder Award was given every five years. From 1980 to 2001, it was awarded every three years. As of 2001, it was awarded every two years, and since 2016 the medal has been given annually.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in Wisconsin. She became an elementary school teacher, married, and moved to Mansfield, MO, in 1894, where she lived until her death at age 90. Wilder's first book, The Little House in the Big Woods (1932), was published when she was 65. It began the story of five-year-old Laura and her family in the Wisconsin woods. Among her publications are Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), and By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939).
Wilder's Legacy, and the Award in Context
Wilder's body of work continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work. Her books continue to be published, read, and widely used with contemporary children. ALSC recognizes the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally embraced.
ALSC works to promote excellence in literature for children that aligns with our core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness, as well as to our strategic plan. While we are committed to preserving access to Wilder’s work for readers, we must also consider if her legacy today does justice to this particular award for lifetime achievement, given by an organization committed to all children.
At the ALSC Board meeting during the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, the Board moved to establish a task force to review this award within the context of ALSC’s core values and strategic plan and to provide recommendations by the end of calendar year 2018.
As we undertake this work, we reaffirm the honor bestowed upon past Wilder Award recipients, whose life work contributes essentially to ALSC’s vision of engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children.