The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
In 1921 Frederic G.Melcher had the Newbery Medal designed by René Paul Chambellan. The bronze medal has the winner's name and the date engraved on the back. The American Library Association Executive Board in 1922 delegated to the Children's Librarians' Section the responsibility for selecting the book to receive the Newbery Medal.
The inscription on the Newbery Medal still reads "Children's Librarians' Section," although the section has changed its name four times and its membership now includes both school and public library children's librarians in contrast to the years 1922-58, when the section, under three different names, included only public library children's librarians. Today the Medal is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA.
How the Newbery Medal Came to Be
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year. On June 22, 1921, Frederic G. Melcher proposed the award to the American Library Association meeting of the Children's Librarians' Section and suggested that it be named for the eighteenth-century English bookseller John Newbery. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by the children's librarians, and Melcher's official proposal was approved by the ALA Executive Board in 1922. In Melcher's formal agreement with the board, the purpose of the Newbery Medal was stated as follows: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."
The Newbery Award thus became the first children's book award in the world. Its terms, as well as its long history, continue to make it the best known and most discussed children's book award in this country.
From the beginning of the awarding of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, committees could, and usually did, cite other books as worthy of attention. Such books were referred to as Newbery or Caldecott "runners-up." In 1971 the term "runners-up" was changed to "honor books." The new terminology was made retroactive so that all former runners-up are now referred to as Newbery or Caldecott Honor Books.
Newbery Honor Seal
1. The Medal shall be awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
2. The Award is restricted to authors who are citizens or residents of the United States.
3. The committee in its deliberations is to consider only the books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms.
1. “Contribution to American literature” indicates the text of a book. It also implies that the committee shall consider all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Reprints, compilations and abridgements are not eligible.
2. A “contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.
3. “Distinguished” is defined as:
• Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
• Marked by excellence in quality.
• Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
• Individually distinct.
4. “Author” may include co-authors. The author(s) may be awarded the medal posthumously.
5. The term "original work" may have several meanings. For purposes of these awards,
it is defined as follows:
• "Original work" means that the text was created by this writer and no one else. It may include original retellings of traditional literature, provided the words are the author’s own.
• Further, "original work" means that the text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form. Text reprinted or compiled from other sources are not eligible. Abridgements are not eligible.
6. “In English” means that the committee considers only books written and published in English. This requirement DOES NOT limit the use of words or phrases in another language where appropriate in context.
7. “American literature published in the United States” means that books first published in previous years in other countries are not eligible. Books published simultaneously in the U.S. and another country may be eligible. Books published in a U.S. territory, or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.
8. “Published…in the preceding year” means that the book has a publication date in that year, was available for purchase in that year, and has a copyright date no later than that year. A book might have a copyright date prior to the year under consideration but, for various reasons, was not published until the year under consideration. If a book is published prior to its year of copyright as stated in the book, it shall be considered in its year of copyright as stated in the book. The intent of the definition is that every book be eligible for consideration, but that no book be considered in more than one year.
9. “Resident” specifies that the author has established and maintains a residence in the United States, U.S. territory, or U.S. commonwealth as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor.
10. The term, “only the books eligible for the award,” specifies that the committee is not to consider the entire body of the work by an author or whether the author has previously won the award. The committee’s decision is to be made following deliberation about the books of the specified calendar year.
1. In identifying “distinguished contribution to American literature,” defined as text, in a book for children,
a. Committee members need to consider the following:
Interpretation of the theme or concept
Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
Development of a plot
Delineation of characters
Delineation of a setting
Appropriateness of style.
Note: Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.
b.Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.
2. Each book is to be considered as a contribution to American literature. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.
3. The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound or film equipment) for its enjoyment.
Note: The committee should keep in mind that the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic content or popularity.
Adopted by the ALSC Board, January 1978. Revised, Midwinter 1987. Revised, Annual 2008.
Please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/aboutalsc/coms (scroll down to Priority Group - Awards) for an up to date list of committee members.
- Newbery Medal Procedural Manual (Word)
- Newbery Medal Procedural Manual (PDF)
- Policy for Service on ALSC Award Committees
- Frequently asked questions regarding policy for service
- Awards Diversity and Inclusion Discussion with Kathleen T. Horning- This discussion took place at the 2015 ALA conference in San Francisco with Kathleen Horning and the 2016 Chairs of the ALSC Awards and Notable Children's Lists Committees.
Please Note: The following links are resources for book award committee members. These recordings are part of the Bill Morris Seminar that took place at ALA Midwinter in Denver 2018.
- Book Discussion 101 (Session video is approximately 58 minutes)
- The Search for Distinguished Committee Work and Responsibility (Session video is approximately 53 minutes)
- ALSC Awards Committee Experiences (Session video is approximately 77 minutes)
How to submit books for consideration for the Newbery Medal:
- Complete the award submission form.
- Review the terms and criteria for the award. You can also review the manual for a comprehensive timeline of the Newbery Medal
- Mail one copy of the book to the award committee chair. Address information available upon completion of submission form (see first bullet above).
- The deadline for submitting works is December 31, 2023.
- ALSC membership is not a requirement to submit your work.
- If you wish, you may attach a cover letter with your contact information to your final work. There is no submission form to fill out (besides address request), nor an entry fee for the Newbery Medal.
The ALSC office is only requesting for one copy to be sent to the committee chair. Standards are in place for the committee members to review and share submissions.
Neither the ALSC office nor the committee chair can confirm receipt of submissions. If you would like to confirm delivery receipt of your submission please use a tracking number for your package. Submissions that are dropped off in-person to the ALSC office will not be accepted.
The ALSC office cannot answer eligibility questions or advise on which award your submission is eligible for. It is up to you to review the terms and criteria and if you feel you qualify, submit as appropriate. Eligibility is determined by the committee and is confidential.
The book and media awards are announced each year at ALA’s LibLearnX meeting in January.
Deadline for submitting books is December 31 of the publication year.