Laura Ingalls Wilder has long been a prominent author in children’s literature thanks to her well-known and -loved series Little House on the Prairie, but conflict has arisen in association with her books’ offensive depiction of Native Americans. Many years ago, in 1952, Wilder’s word choice was called into question after a reader complained that a phrase used in Little House on the Prairie, “there were no people. Only Indians lived there,” implied that Native Americans were not people—in response, the publisher then changed “people” to “settlers.” After years of similar complaints, over this past weekend, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) voted to change the name of the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” to the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award,” as reported by theWashington Post. Wilder was the first to win the award in 1954.
The association explained their decision in a statement:
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 an additional background document the association provided, they stated that although other past ALSC award recipients may no long live up to their current values either, the name of the award in itself holds power. As an award intended to honor “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 is committed to all children. As such, Wilder’s work, which depicts the racism prevalent among settlers, must be read with a critical eye and does not represent the association’s stated dedication to all children.