Since 1938, The Caldecott Medal has been awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
Since 1922, The Newbury Medal has been awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
These awards are not only prestigious emblems of success for the those whose works are honored, but also very influential when it comes to what books librarians and educators choose when adding to their children’s literature collections.
And it’s that influence that makes the ALA’s recent addition of an award for gay and lesbian literature so important. The newly-created Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award will honor “English-language works for children and teens of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience.”
The Stonewall Award itself isn’t new – since 1971, it has been awarded annually to adult books – but this marks the first time that the ALA is officially recognizing the importance of such books for children and young adults.
While ALA president Roberta Stevens says the decision to include a Stonewall prize for children’s book preceded the recent rash of suicides by young victims of gay bullying, the timing is certainly serendipitous.
Ours is a very inclusive profession and we represent a wide variety of viewpoints. Millions of children in this country are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. There are young people who are gay and sometimes they feel very alone. This is a real opportunity for youths who may be feeling alone to read about others like themselves.
This will no doubt raise the ire of those who think the American Library Association is effectively promoting homosexuality to children. Of course, that’s ridiculous. Awarding a prize in this category isn’t promoting anything. It’s merely acknowledging – and celebrating – the experience of many children and their families. Bravo to you, American Library Association!
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