The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) was established by the American Library Association in 1941 to promote and improve library services to children and teens. In its early years, it was restructured and renamed three times, becoming the modern ALSC in 1977. Since its inception, it has grown to include more than 4000 members including children’s librarians, literary experts, publishers, and education and library faculty.
One of the most high profile ways the ALSC encourages children to read is through its awards and medals. Every January, it praises authors, illustrators and their works with more than 15 accolades. These are all prestigious in their own right, selected as they are by the distinguished members of the ALSC, though some are more well known than others.
Among the most famous of these awards is the Newbery Award. Given to a work that has proved a significant contribution to children’s literature, the Newbery has been awarded to classics such as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Sarah Plain and Tall, and A Wrinkle in Time.
The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the most outstanding children’s picture book. It has been given to Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, and Jumanji.
The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award goes to a person who has contributed significantly to children’s literature, be they author, critic or teacher of children’s literature. Recipients are then invited to give a lecture on children’s literature. Honorees include Michael Morpurgo, Maurice Sendak and Philip Pullman.
The Batchelder Award selects a book originally written and published for children in a language other than English and in a country other than the United States. The American publisher that translates into English and publishes in America the outstanding book wins the prize. Winners have included Charles Scribner's Sons for Don’t Take Teddy by Babbis Friis-Baastad and Walker and Company for The Baboon King by Anton Quintana.
The Belpré Medal celebrates the work of Latino or Latina writers and illustrators who celebrate Latino culture and experience in children’s literature. Victor Martinez, author of Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida, and illustrator Yuyi Morales are among those who have won this.
The Carnegie Medal goes to the producer of the best children’s videos. This has included So You Want to be President? and Eric Carle: Picture Writer.
Established in 2006 and named after Dr. Seuss, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal is awarded to both the author and illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to beginning readers books. Winners have included Cynthia Rylant and Sucie Stevenson in 2006 and Mo Willems in 2008.
The Odyssey Award honors the best audiobooks for children and has been awarded to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Rotters.
The Sibert Medal is given to the best informational book for children. It has been awarded to Kakapo: Saving the World’s Strangest Bird and The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.
The Wilder Medal, named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, honors people whose books or literary artwork have made a lasting impression on children’s literature over a period of years. It was initially given to Laura Ingalls Wilder herself and has since been awarded to Beverly Cleary, Maurice Sendak, Theodor S. Geisel and Eric Carle.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards highlight the outstanding books that demonstrate an appreciation for both African American cultural experience and universal values. It has been given to Mother Crocodile: An Uncle Amadou Tale from Senegal and The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Schneider Family Book Award acknowledges books for children and young adults that have discussed the experiences of disabled people. Winners have included A Mango Shaped Space and The Deaf Musicians.
The Printz Award is given to the author of the best book written for teens. Among these is Kit’s Wilderness and American Born Chinese.
The Margaret A. Edwards Award is bestowed upon writers whose works have made a lasting impact on literature for young adults. Recipients include Judy Blume, Terry Pratchett and Madeleine L'Engle.
The Alex Award is given to 10 books annually that, although written for adults, appeal specifically to older children and teens. These include Water for Elephants, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Stardust.
The Best Books for Young Adults list is an annual compilation of the best books for young adults. From that list, 10 books are then highlighted as particularly noteworthy. Books such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Hunger Games have been included on these lists.
Of course, everyone agrees that encouraging children to read is a good thing, as it improves academic performance, communication skills and concentration. These awards help encourage the next generation to have as many readers as possible, ensuring these benefits and many others will continue to improve the lives of children throughout the United States.