“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,” the Association for Library Service to Children said in a statement after the unanimous vote.
According to the organization’s website, “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.”
It now will be called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
Wilder, born in 1867, published her first “Little House on the Prairie” book in 1932; the seven subsequent novels about pioneer life in the west were published through 1943, just 14 years before she died. Wilder was presented the first award in 1954, after which it was named for her and presented every five years between 1960 and 1980, every three years between 1980 and 2001, every two years between 2001 and 2015 and annually since then.
The racial issues in her books have been debated long before February, when the ALSC announced it would be voting on whether to keep Wilder’s name on its award, calling her legacy “complex.” At the forefront of the argument is her handling of black and Native American characters, both in name-calling and characterization.
Some, however, have argued that the books and their handling of non-white characters can be used as a teaching lesson without ignoring the important family values.
“It would be easy to take these books off the shelf, to say that they — like many books of their time — were steeped in white supremacy and racism and therefore they do not belong in our canon,” James Noonan, a research affiliate with the Justice In Schools project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote on the university’s website. “It would also be easy to read all of the pages full of wonder and wild adventure and a family’s love and skip over the parts that inconveniently don’t fit that narrative. Instead, I am trying a middle path.”
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