What Is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal?

Everyone who grew up with reading the Little House books or watching Little House on the Prairie on television should know Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was a school teacher and author who grew up in the 1800’s. What everyone may not know is that she was a real person and has a literary award named after her. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal is given to an author or illustrator who has been an influence and made lasting contributions to children’s literature. The award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (or ALA). The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, also known as just the Wilder Award, is but one literary medal given out by the ALA. The medal is named after its first recipient, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in 1954 and is given out every two years. The Wilder Award is one of a handful of prominent awards for children’s authors.

History of Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

The Wilder Award was named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was born in Wisconsin in 1867. She was an elementary school teacher who moved to Missouri in 1894, where she lived until her death in 1957. She is best known as the author who wrote the Little House series of children’s books which were based on her childhood growing up in a pioneer family. Her first book, The Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932. It told the story of a young girl named Laura and her family’s struggles trying to make a life in 1800’s Wisconsin. Wilder wrote the books in order to tell children about ordinary life in early America. Her other books include Farmer Boy (1933), Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), and By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939).

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal was conceived and named at the time of her death. The award was originally given out every five years. However, in 1980, the ALA changed that ruling to every three eyears. Finally in 2001, the rules were changed again so that the medal could be awarded every two years which is still the current ruling at this time.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal is a bronze medal with an engraving of a young girl’s face. It was designed by the artist Garth Williams, who illustrated the Little House on the Prairie books. The award’s title surround the image, wrapping around the edge of the medal.

Criteria and Rules for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award


Like all medals warded by the ALA, there are rules and requirements for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. The medal may be awarded to either an author or illustrator (including both co-authors and co-illustrators) of childen’s books or a children’s author that does both. The person may be living but recipients may also be nominated after death. The author must have some experience in children’s literature within the past twenty-five years. They do not necessarily have to be solely an author of children’s literature but some of their work must be for children within the last ten years..

Unlike other American literature awards, U.S. citizenship is not a rerquirement and is not to be considered. Nor does the book have to be first published in the United States. As long as the book, at some point, has been published by a U.S. publisher, it will be considered. To qualify for the Wilder Award, all nominees must be recognized as an important piece of literature and children have read and continue to request to read the books.

A committee of judges are selected by the ALA to choose the winners of the Wilder Award. The committee’s job is to consider an author’s work that is suitable for children. They are not to consider work for other age groups. The Wilder Awards are announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the recipients receive the medal at the Annual Conference in June of that year.

Winners of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Below is a list of the past Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. Some of them were chosen when the five year ruling ands three year ruling were still in effect.

2009: Ashley Bryan (1923 – )

2007: James Marshall (1942 – 1992)

2005: Laurence Yep (1948 – )

2003: Eric Carle (1929 – )

2001: Milton Meltzer (1915 – )

1998: Russell Freedman (1929 – )

1995: Virginia Hamilton (1936 – )

1992: Marcia Brown (1918 – )

1989: Elizabeth George Speare (1908 – 1995)

1986: Jean Fritz (1915 – )

1983: Maurice Sendak (1928 – )

1980: Theodor S. Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) (1904 – 1991)

1975: Beverly Cleary (1916 – )

1970: E. B. White (1899 – 1985)

1965: Ruth Sawyer (1880-1970)

1960: Clara Ingram Judson (1879 – 1960)

1954: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)