After I wrote about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie book series, one of my readers commented: “WHO DIDN’T LOVE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?!”
Well, as it turns out, the Board of the Association for Library Service to Children.
After Wilder’s very successful writing career as a beloved children’s author, The American Library Association created the Wilder Award to recognize outstanding children’s authors. Laura Ingalls Wilder was the first recipient in 1954.
What an honor! Some other recipients whose names you will recognize are Tomie dePaola, Maurice Sendak, Theodor S. Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Beverly Cleary, and E. B. White.
Sadly, in 2017, Wilder’s name was stripped from the award as it was renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The reason for the renaming can be explained by a quote from Nina Lindsey, then president of the American Library Association: “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”
I try to live my life with a love of all people regardless of how similar or different they may be from me. I sincerely regret that our country’s government and many people have grievously mistreated the Native American Indians for a long time.
And I believe that trying to purify history by forbidding anything that reminds us of any ugliness in the past is ridiculous.
Using Wilder as an example, she was born in 1867. By 1870, her family was squatting on the Osage Diminished Reserve in Kansas. As a three-year-old, she had no say in that decision. She grew up hearing adults talk about “Injuns” and living in Indian territory. Wilder’s mother was afraid of the Indians and likely some of that fear passed along to her children.
When Wilder grew up, she wrote about her life as a child, about what it was like, how people talked. She quoted a neighbor as making the terrible remark about the “only good Indian being a dead one.”
Some elementary school teachers are using the Little House books in their classrooms as a way to talk about diversity and acceptance. Instead of banning the books, they are using them as a springboard to explain that the author wrote about her life as a child, what it was like then, and how some people today are (wrongly) still acting that way toward people who are different from themselves.
Bad stuff has happened throughout history. Pretending it hasn’t and punishing people for the telling of the stories won’t fix anything. Learning from the stories and choosing to live from a standpoint of love and acceptance can.